An elaborate REPORT – A discussion on Communal Harmony

By Syed Najeeb-Ur-Rahman
Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP)
Mumbai.

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Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) had organized a Discussion on Communal Harmony. The program titled “Building Trust and Partnership among communities in India” was conducted in association with the American Centre at the American Centre Auditorium, Mumbai.

Noted Human Rights Activist Ms.Shabnam Hashmi was in town and considering her contribution and efforts towards Community Service and welfare and in order to make the most of her presence in the city AMP had organized an ad-hoc Seminar on Communal Harmony inviting experts on the subject to a discussion on the same.

The invites consisted of people from different communities and various sections of the society.
The discussion was divide in 4 parts
1) Present communal scenario, the rise of Communal Forces and violence in India..
2) Suppression of voices of Democracy & Communalism..
3) Prevention of Communal Violence
4) Steps to be taken to develop Trust, Harmony & improve relations between communities.
Ms. Shabnam Hashmi,Founding & Managing Trustee ANHAD was the special guest for the event.

Mr.Javed Akhtar was the Chief Guest for the event but unfortunately he was unable to make it as he was suffering from Conjunctivitis.

Adv. Irfan Engineer- Dir. Institute for Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution, Centre for Study of Society & Secularism; Mr.Kumar Ketkar- Editor, Loksatta; Mr.Suresh Khopade(IPS)-Special Inspector General of Police-Maharashtra State & Adv.Zubair Azmi were the guest speakers for the event.

Ms.Christine, Consul – Public Diplomacy at the American Centre initiated the proceedings welcoming the guests on behalf of The American Centre and handed over the proceedings to Mr.Syed Najeeb-Ur-Rahman, Head P.R. & Communication of AMP who had hosted the event.

Mr.Syed Najeeb-Ur-Rahman (Najeeb) started with introducing the guests and welcoming them on the dais.

Adv.Irfan Engineer shared his knowledge about the advent of communalism starting with the history of India till today. He said that religion cannot be correlated with communalism. He reiterated that had religion been the base of communal vent then India, which has more than 2000 years of history of religion, should have witnessed Communal Violence since so many years. But he said communal violence is a recent phenomenon just about 2 decades old.
He said that The British Policy was responsible for the creation of communal identities for their own benefit and presented it to India as this suited them to rule India.
He said that the fanatic ideology of certain saffron parties since pre-independence, to push non-Hindus out in India was influenced by the likes of Mussolini and shaped by rise of Fascism & Nazism.

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He said that apart from giving more power & authority, we should make the policemen and government officials more accountable for any communal violence.

He informed about the ineffectiveness of the bill against communal violence and said that it was unacceptable in its current form and said that we need to ask the government to include the amendments proposed by the Minority community.
He informed all about the Press Conference on 9th March at the Press Club to discuss about the Communal Violence (prevention) Bill.

Speaking about the suppression of voices of Democracy and Secularism and the medias role, Mr.Kumar Ketkar, said that we tend to discuss Communalism but not Terrorism.
He said that Terrorism had started raising its head since before 1970 but it was only in the 70s when Terrorism was started to be linked with Communalism. The term was first used together against Sikhs in 1979-80.

He further said that everyone speaks about Muslim Terrorism but people seems to have forgotten the serial transistor bombing in Delhi in 1981-82. He said that the attack on Sikhs need to be condemned but even the killing of thousands of innocent people including Sikhs at the hands of Khalistani people (who incidentally were Sikhs) need to be condemned as well. He said that creation of Muslim Fundamentalism wer5e certain sections of the US State who used them against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

He said that terrorism has been raising its head since last two decades. He said that initially they were known as militants, then were named as extremists, then fanatic, then fundamentalists and then as terrorists. He further that we need to be realistic and not romanticize religion or culture. He said that though we say that every religion preaches peace & harmony but history has it that since the very beginning most of the wars were waged based on religion.

He said that there are various steps to communalism. The initial phase starts with prejudice, then passive communalism, then active communalism which leads to violence and which further leads to partition of he minds. He said that communalism is being reared as well by the products of liberal secular democracy which are namely : Media, Academic institutions and political parties.

He said that media starts shouting in the name of censorship when it has to be restrained and show some sanity. He cited the example of Saamna which openly promotes and encourages violence but still no action is taken against them, which shows that media and political support go together.

He also reminded how Hussain was hounded out of India and also referred to the Shimoga issue.
He said that an educational reform is required to change the mindset of the people. Individual bodies need to act as well.

He said that the main culprit is the Middle Class. It has been seen that people who undertake act of vandalism and resort to violence are mainly from the middle class. He said that poor people have no time for violence as they are fighting it out with themselves in their daily lives.

He said that the poor have less stake in riot, infact they want to coexist. It is the middle class who when considering the poor, does not wish to talk about equality as they do not want the poor to become equal to them and at the same time when they look at the rich they start talking about equality.

He said that the way out is to Change the norms of media and to change the education standard so that we have more refined minds to think around.

Speaking about prevention of communal violence, Mr. Suresh Khopade, spoke about his understanding of how to contain the communal violence . He shared his valuable experience in implementing Mohalla Committee across Bhiwandi & other regions. He explained about the reasons for communal violence which mainly happed because of our History, Education, Provocative Speeches, Criminal Justice system, Elections. He shared the case study of 2 victims of the riots on Bhiwandi and who were the actual culprits. He further discussed the model on which the Mohalla Committee functions. He suggested increase of celebration amongst communities during religious and national festivals to increase harmony and participation of communities in sport activities to increase harmony.

When discussing about steps to be taken to develop trust, harmony and improve relations between communities Adv.Zubair Azmi had a very simple and basic suggestion. He advocated interaction between communities.

He said that we need to interact freely, openly and with due respect. He reiterated that till the time people are enclosed within their shell it will be difficult for them to understand eachothers view-point.

He shared his a couple of his own experiences about how a proper interaction was able to make the other person understand his aspect and in-turn that person appreciated this gesture.

Then Mr. Aamir Idrisi, President of AMP came up to the dais to give a brief about what AMP is all about its mission, vision and objectives.

He spoke about the various projects undertaken by AMP, the projects and Workshops already conducted and the ongoing projects like the Employment Cell, The Career counseling cell and Help centre and future projects of AMP as well. He also spoke to the audience especially about AMPs Skill Development Lecture and Skills Development Workshop and also about the AMP Skill Development Centre and the Scholarship fund.

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Finally Ms. Shabnam Hashmi was invited on the dais. She highlighted the atrocities which are being done on Muslims & other minorities all over the country. She cited the Gujarat carnage and said that still there exists low-level discrimination which goes unreported except for a few organizations like hers (ANHAD) and Adv. Irfan engineers (Inst. Of Conflict Resolution). She said that not just people are allowed to come back only if they agree to the terms of VHP but also they are reclaiming the graveyards of Muslims. She said that the general perception is that “people will not let you live with dignity nor let you die with dignity”.

She expressed her concern of having very few Muslims who are involved in the fight for minorities while the battle for dignity, justice to minorities are fought mostly by secular hindus.
She said that the web of fanaticism is very vast with RSS and its affiliates running about 4000 Shishu-mandirs and 6000 NGOs run by them.

She said that we do not have to fight identity politics but we need to fight for democracy, secularism & equality. She rai8sed a questioned as to how there could be any peace without proper justice?

She said that minorities are being forced to a corner by fascist forces. The people who are going back to their homes in riot affected areas are being forced to negotiate their terms with the RSS. She said that there is no harm in a dialogue but we need to be clear about our ideology if we want to setup a dialogue with RSS.

She also said that no religion should interfere in state. Talking about secularism in the state police she said that the real test of secularism is not having places of worship of all religions in a police station but having no places of worship of any religion. She reasserted that religion should have no role to play in the state.

She said that we cannot refer to history and relate the wars with religion as the wars fought in history were to increase the territories and loot kingdoms and not to reassert religion.

She also questioned the intentions of certain other countries who donot want peace in this region and are talking about peace on one hand but constantly supplying arms to neighbouring countries on the other hand.

She said that we have to be careful of not just the normal enemy and problem creators within the country but we have o be on the lookout for international enemies as well.

She said that all we want is to live in a secular, democratic country. Taking a shot at certain politicians she said that, no one needs any passport to enter any state or city within India. Duty of all citizens to work towards peaceful society. She said that all of India is for everyone. She said that there is no need to be afraid of anyone. People who are fascist are actually cowards. We need to stand up against them.

She said that the maximum anyone can do is ‘kill you’ and nothing more. ‘if you have this mindset once and for all then you wont be ever afraid of anything.

Mr.Farid Khan, AMP Member, gave the vote of thanks and appreciated everyone for contributing with their time and presence.

This was a very engrossing discussion and the audience was totally captivated by this. Infact they wanted this to go on but we had to curtail it due to time constraints.

We are thankful to the American Centre for having allowed us to conduct this event at their premise. We are specially thankful to Ms.Tasneem Kalsekar, Cultural Affairs Specialist for her kindness and cooperation.

(http://www.ampindia.org)

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