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India And Pakistan: Communal Violence And Peace

By Pritam K. Rohila, Ph.D.

16 August, 2012

Communal violence has plagued India and Pakistan, since before the Partition of 1947. Usually it is directed against religious, sectarian, ethnic, and regional minorities. And even when it seems to be instigated by them, the minorities suffer the most.

Prejudices underlie communal violence. The prejudices are perpetuated by myths about the minorities. The myths are often peppered with inaccurate details and exaggerated or distorted accounts of events. These myths are designed to paint minorities into undesirable, inhuman, or subhuman creatures, and provide justification for discrimination and violence against them.

Sometimes textbooks and religious activities are used to propagate the myths. Some traditional beliefs and practices are manipulated and legal and administrative procedures are developed to sustain them.

Typically communal violence is instigated and engineered by some near-sighted political, religious and community leaders, who exploit the myths for their personal economic or political gain.

Sometime police and other government agencies are blamed for lending open or tacit support to the perpetrators. Many times they are accused of not doing enough to prevent and control communal violence or protect its targets. This state of affairs leads to loss of trust in state authority.

Communal violence alienates minorities, promotes ghetto mentality in them. Sometimes it also encourages extremism among them. It restricts their rightful role in society and reduces their capability to avail of social and economic opportunities, which are available to the rest of the society. Also they are unable to make their contributions to the progress, development and integration of their nations.

It is heartening to see that many groups and individuals are currently engaged in promoting peace BETWEEN India and Pakistan. But it is highly unlikely that we will derive full benefit from these efforts without also peace WITHIN each nation.

As we celebrate Independence Days of India and Pakistan we need to pay due attention to the menace of communal violence and develop and execute a multidimensional strategy to uproot it.

Legal and administrative reforms are necessary. But by themselves they are insufficient to abolish the blight of communal violence from our society.

Civil society also needs to assume leadership role in developing and providing suitable programs to prevent, curb and eliminate this serious threat to welfare of us all.

On its part the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia ( www.asiapeace.org ) commits to counter prejudices that fuel communal violence, through two-day peace camps at a few places in India and Pakistan. The camps are designed to help young people become agents of communal harmony, national integration and peace.

The following Pledge of Peace & Harmony will be one of the core activities of these camps:

I pledge,

I will not intentionally use my hands or my words to harm anyone;

I will treat my sisters and daughters with at least as much love and respect as I treat my brothers and sons;

I will treat all my neighbors as deserving of my respect, regardless of their class, caste, sect or religion; and

I will practice environment-friendly practices in my daily life.

The Pledge can also be signed by anyone (without any cost or donation) at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/acha-members-pledge/

The Pledge is a part of Association for Communal Harmony's India-Pakistan Peace Day 2012 campaign. More info about the campaign is available at www.indiapakistanpeace.org

What do you plan to do?

Dr. Rohila is Executive Director of the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia, and can be reached at asiapeace@comcast.net . www.asiapeace.org  & www.indiapakistanpeace.org




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