Hamza was the first person I was introduced to when I started this project. He is a prominent member of the group and one I found to be very vocal during the meetings that I attended. I also saw him engaging with different groups of students at the series of study circles that happened in Nasir Bagh. I also decided to hang out with him afterwards, which went great. He accompanied me on my bike almost daily when I went to photograph different students at their hostels. I photographed Hamza in the office of his father’s book shop at Temple Road, Lahore.
When I talked to him, Hamza had a thoughtful clarity about the need of activism in the contemporary scheme of affairs. In his words, it was a matter of survival. “A democratic world order claims to offer some inalienable rights to the citizens across the globe, despite the fact that 98 percent of all the countries in the world recognize themselves as democracies there is a rampant rise in human rights exploitation across the globe. The extent of this denial obviously varies according to the political status of a country in the international order. While activists in Europe might be fighting for the right to denounce the racist legacy of the continent, people in the villages of central Punjab are denied the access to clean water and rather forced to consume the contaminated water that has rendered 85 percent of a village’s population handicapped in a period of just 4 years. The need for activism in the twentieth century stems from an immediate question of survival,” he said. He also told that in his opinion, the nexus of free market and democracy becomes uglier each day when it fails to fulfil the promises it made to the peoples of the world who fought against fascism in Europe and colonial regimes in the peripheries and the purpose of activism in twenty-first century is to help and improve the living conditions of the victims of this new world order’s treachery and take these people on board for building a world that operates outside the logic of capitalism.
When I asked him about the reasons that led him to join student activism, he thought that it’d be unfair to to pin down this realization onto a single instant, but he believes that events do play a crucial role in triggering the development of political consciousness in individuals as well as societies. “The university administration on my campus sent a 16 year old who had come from gilgit to Lahore for the first time, to jail for trying to enter the premises through unofficial means because he was denied the official ones on the basis of his ethnicity. I was a bystander to the fiasco that happened after students tried to negotiate with administration regarding their excessive use of authority to punish someone beyond their offense, the ruthless and derogatory way administration treated the students and their concern made me and others like me on the campus to realize the profound need for a student collective that ensures the articulation of student’s concerns without compromising their dignity,” Hamza told.
I also had a lengthy discussion with him regarding the current standing of the Pakistani left. He summed up the conversation by saying, “I think that the project of building a broader left in Pakistan presupposes a society that takes an active interest in politics as an idea and in collectives as practical models of social existence. The challenge that history has presented to the contemporary Pakistani left is that of popularizing the idea of people’s participation in the decision-making process that effects their daily lives. That is from where we can move further in our attempts to establish people cooperatives, solidarity units and eventually social movements of the kind we have seen in contexts quite similar to our own.”