This interview has been conducted by Shreetama Chakraborty, Campus Manager, Department of Law, Calcutta University.
1. Tell us a bit about your pre-college life and why you decided to study law.
My father had a transferrable job so I had to change schools but the major part of my schooling was in Loreto House, Kolkata and few years in St. Xavier’s Sr. Sec. School, Chandigarh. During my school life I was more into extra curricular activities like sports, dancing, painting, etc. rather than studying.
My native place, a small village in Birbhum District, West Bengal was the reason behind choosing law as well as human rights. My school Loreto House inculcated in me the value of loving and helping the underprivileged people.
I visited my village every year and promised myself every time I returned back to Kolkata that I am going to do something for the lower caste people in my village.
I grew up hearing stories about the brilliant advocacy of my paternal grandfather who was a criminal lawyer in Asansol Court and of my maternal grandfather who was a corporate lawyer. These were the key factors in my career decisions.
2. Was it especially difficult since you were from a Government Law College and not a NLU?
Honestly, I feel there is no difficulty in being a student from a Government Law College. In fact, there is greater happiness in achieving as an underdog. I haven’t studied in a National Law University so I really cannot comment on the advantages of studying there.
But yes, being a student of Calcutta University I can firmly say that if you really want to achieve something it isn’t that hard. It’s just that we are unaware of certain information, which a NLU student readily receives and we are a little less planned.
I have always heard people saying that CU doesn’t help any student in their need but I feel I have always received immediate help.
3. What made you choose Human Rights over the other avenues in law?
Well, like any other new law student (I won’t lie), I wanted to join a corporate law firm. But I did not enjoy myself while interning there. Two and a half years of law school passed with me trying to convince myself that corporate law is the way to go for me.
But soon I had my honours papers like juvenile justice and feministic jurisprudence as well as general papers such as human rights law and public international law, which I found very interesting.
The third year of study made all the difference, it was then that I could join all the dots in my life.
4. Tell us about your internship experiences with firms like Fox and Mandal and corporate internship with IDBI.
Interning in Fox & Mandal, Kolkata, was fun, not because of the work but the fact that the people were amazing. It was very good but not meant for me. I did all the work that I was assigned but never enjoyed doing it. The only thing I enjoyed were court visits with my senior. The next internship was in IDBI Bank, Mumbai.
5. You interned with West Bengal Human Rights Commission and Socio Legal Training Aid Research Centre, how instrumental were these internships in helping you decide which field of law you wanted to specialize in?
Once I had the big names for my CV, I decided to intern in a NGO, so I started interning for Socio-Legal Aid Research and Training Centre (SLARTC), Kolkata. This is the place which helped me decide upon Human Rights. I assisted in providing legal aid and helped the project managers in their work.
It was shocking and depressing to hear stories of violation from the people but it gave me immense satisfaction in helping them. I even wrote a project paper on “child abuse and neglect” under Prof. Manabendra Mandal. Even after the internship period was over, I was associated with the NGO.
After that I interned with West Bengal Human Rights Commission, Kolkata, where I learnt the procedure of bringing a case to the Commission and the hearing of the cases.
Unlike SLARTC, in WBHRC I was more like an audience rather than a participant.
6. How important do you think internships and publications are for law students these days?
I would encourage internships, publications and trainings. I personally feel that what makes the difference is the activities apart from the normal curriculum.
Other than my internships and project paper, I had done a three months certificate course on intellectual property rights from Indian Law Institute, New Delhi and I was also selected as one of the twenty participants from all over Asia to attend a course on “Peace and Conflict Transformation” conducted by the International Institute for Peace Studies in collaboration with The Asian Resource Foundation (ARF) and The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN).
I guess these extra things were important for my admission in LSE.
7. What made you choose LSE and how different is the teaching there compared to the Indian counterparts?
I had applied to two other places for LLM apart from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where I had applied for LLM and MSc in Human Rights. I received offers from all them but settled for MSc in Human Rights at LSE. I wanted a mixture of law and sociology.
It is in LSE where you get to choose optional law papers along with the LLM students as well as human rights as the core paper. Hence this was exactly what I wanted.
So I have Human Rights as my core paper and the optional papers as 1. International Planning and Children’s Rights, 2. International Dispute Resolution: Courts and Tribunals, 3. International Law and the Movement of Persons between States, and 4. Globalization, Gender and Development: Policy and Practice.
The style of teaching in LSE is extremely informative and interactive. We have seminars for each paper along with lectures. So there is greater interaction and exchange of views and ideas at LSE.
In our course we have 60 students of 24 different nationalities. So there is massive diversity, hence we get to know the workings of different nations through seminars. We have formative essay submissions and seminar presentations for each course. This helps in developing analytical, communicative and writing skills.
LSE provides you with everything you need but doesn’t spoon-feed you. No concept of tuitions and notes. They provide you with reading lists and links to the library. We have career fairs, public events and guest lectures for greater exposure. LSE believes in “absorb as much as you can”.
8. Where do you see yourself 10 years down the line?
I wish to work for Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
So 10 years from now I would like to see myself in one of the two organizations doing some great work.
9. Words of advice for the starry-eyed neophytes.
The only advice I can give is aim for one thing at a time.
Do internships, apply for courses, write papers and take every possible opportunity you can, to get that one thing you want.
From the very little experience I have, I can only say that nothing goes for waste. Every extra piece of work that you do apart from normal studies will count.
I was not a Topper and I am not from a NLU, so if I can get the opportunity to study at LSE, each one of you can.
Another important thing is scholarship, look for them before you look for colleges.