Celebrating Harmony And Peace
By Ram Puniyani
15 July, 2012
Communal violence is the sad reality of South Asian states. India in particular has been witnessing this violence more so after the coming of British. British in pursuance of their policy of ‘Divide and Rule’, introduced communal historiography and sections of population who wanted to preserve their feudal privileges, picked up this version of History and used religion as a cover for their politics. Both Hindu and Muslim communalism, in a way played a supplementary role to the British policy of divide and rule. The communal violence, which has been stalking the streets of India is due to numerous factors and is causing immense suffering to the society. Many a social group and many an individuals are doing their bit to ensure that the flames of communal violence are doused and amity prevails in the society.
In this light, it was heartening to note the observance of ‘Peace and Harmony’ day, on the anniversary of Vasant–Rajab on 1st July in Ahmadabad. Vasant Rao Hegiste and Rajab Ali Lakhani were two friends who were working for the amity in the society. In the communal conflagration which broke out in Ahmadabad in the wake of post partition tragedy, both of them went in the city to restore peace and amity. The crowd, maddened by the feeling of hate, killed them. The day of their martyrdom is being celebrated in Gujarat by various groups. One recalls there have been many outstanding individuals, thinkers, social activists who have sacrificed their lives on the altar of communal peace. The name of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi comes to one’s mind for his selfless work in the Kanpur violence of 1931. For Gandhi, father of the nation, the Hindu Muslim amity was on the top of agenda and when whole nation was celebrating the release from the clutches of colonial powers he was doing his best in the riot ravaged Noakhali and other places. His efforts were superhuman, as he did not care for his safety, what was paramount for him was as to how to restore the sanity amongst the violent mobs. It is because of this that Lord Mountbatten the last Viceroy of British Empire and First Governor General of Independent India called him as the ‘one man army’.
One is sure there must be various glorious examples of such superhuman efforts in our community, who need to be remembered with respect. One needs to learn a lot from their values while celebrating their anniversaries. It is all the more important in today’s India as communal violence is, unfortunately marching with relentless speed, changing it’s form and nature constantly. One has seen that since the decade of 1980s the violence in many a north Indian cities, Meerut, Malyana, Bhagalpur and Delhi was in a way revival of this horrendous phenomenon in the Independent India. The massacre in Nellie and Delhi were too dangerous in their extent and damage to human lives. Further down the Mumbai violence of 1992-93 gave us a warning signal that things are worsening on the front of intercommunity relations. This was followed by targeting another minority, the Christians, and brutal murder of Pastor Stains and later the Kandhmal violence came as yet another eye opener for us.
The root cause of the communal violence is the politics in the name of religion. In this the political, social, economic agenda of vested interests are presented in the language of religion. Unfortunately in India this phenomenon is running parallel to the process of global aims of Imperial powers that in pursuit of their control over oil wells have promoted fundamentalism and terrorism in the name of religion. The Imperial power has also demonized one of the major religious communities of the World. This present era has been the one where the deeper process of ‘alliance of civilizations’ has been undermined and the flagship of the vested interests has been the thesis of’ ‘Clash of civilizations’, which is a falsification of the reality of the human history. One knows that human society has progressed due to alliance of diverse civilizations and cultures. While the rulers and affluent have been fighting for increasing their power and wealth, the average people of the world have been allying, intermixing with each other leading to high degree of synthesis in all aspects of human culture, be it food habits, clothing, language, literature, architecture, or be it even the religious traditions followed by people. Social interaction is the moving engine of Human progress.
The divisive politics in the name of religion begins by changing the paradigm of human understanding from the socio economic differences to religious one’s. The core aspect of human stratification runs around economic and social factors while the politics in the name of religion presents it as if the differences amongst the practices preached by clergy are the core points of difference. From last some time the syncretic aspects of society are being undermined and the divisive aspects are being highlighted. The communal politics has the base in the spread of Hate other propaganda. This hate other sentiments are the foundation on which innocent people are killed during the carnages. The carnages also polarize communities along religious lines and ghettoization of minorities follows. This ghettoization further traps the communities in to becoming inward looking and being further demonized. Today we in India are witnessing a very concerted attempt to marginalize the religious communities.
The way out is very hard and a long struggle to restore the humanism of our society. We, people of different religious communities have a common heritage and our aspirations for better society are also common. What prevents our efforts for a better society is the hysteria created by religion based politics. This hysteria is created around the emotive issues. There is a dire need to change the paradigm of social thought, the one from identity based issues to the one revolving around the rights and livelihood of weaker sections of society. There is a need to overcome the impact of prevalent myths about minorities and stereotypes about them and strengthening the tradition of syncretism, which is our basic hallmark. There is a need to uphold the values of Bhakti and Sufi traditions, there is need to uphold the values of likes of Gandhi, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, Vasant-Rajab and their tribe. We do salute this spirit of peace and amity in our traditions and hope this will show us the path to progress and peace in the long run.
Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD.
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