Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Yatra No One Talked About

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

18 October, 2011
Countercurrents.org

Much hullabaloo was made of Anna Hazare’s fast against anti corruption, so was about Narender Modi’s fast for communal harmony. LK Advani yatra too has attracted a great deal of attention, has anyone heard about the communal harmony Yatra (travel) that concluded in New Delhi on October 16, 2011. I guess very few.

It’s unfortunate that such meaningful and positive development in the country is not being reported by the media which in turn prefers to feed the staple of news that may loosely called infotainment.

Its long well established that Indian media is bourgeoisie in character but now what is becoming apparent is the total lack of moral and ethical values in media representation. If this gradual decline goes unabated the designers of national character may be guilty of acts beyond our comprehension.

Leaving this thought for an introspection, let me talk about this secular yatra that began from the pious town of Ayodhya on October 11 and concluded at the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin in New Delhi on October 16.

This was the fourth edition of this yatra and persons from various parts of the country led this march to the national capital cherishing the ideal of peaceful existence. Whether these people were successful in their mission is difficult to profess, but the fact remains that they strived to bridging the communal divide in our country, is laudable indeed.

The yatra was led by Ayodhya’s famous mahant of Ayodhya Yugal Kishor Shastri who has been tirelessly working for communal harmony in India. Last year, he took out a similar yatra among various communities from Ayodhya to Sewagram in Wardha.

I had the privilege of interviewing Mr Shastri at an interfaith conference in New Delhi last year where he narrated to me how he sheltered the fleeing Muslims being chased by the Hindutva goons during the demolition of Babari mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. “I have buried many Muslim bodies with my own hand in that communal madness,” said the inconcipious mahant, in a whispering tone. He brings out a magazine Ayodhya ki Awaz to promote the values of peace and harmony.

Talking to Yugal Kishor Shastri, I wondered, how some swamy's and mahant's become national figures and amass huge wealth and followers in this country, while those who are genuinely godly persons, remain a naked fakir like Mr Shastri. Again, I leave this thought left for self introspection.

The communal harmony yatra started from Ayodhya on 11th October, 2011. It went to Faizabad and from there reached Lucknow on 12th October, Sitapur on October 13, Shahjahanpur on October 15, spent the night at Moradabad and arrived at Delhi in the morning of October 16, covering a distance of 490 kilometres by road.

There were twenty members in this yartra and number of programmes of mass contact were organized all along the travel route. It included conferences, street plays and press meets and contacting people, especially the youth.

The aim of the yatra was to propagate the idea of shared culture heritage among different communities. It was to tell that the shared history of living together among different communities is of much longer then the momentary phases of conflict and disharmony.

The starting point of the yatra was the temple town of Ayodhya, where the Hindu- Muslim conflict over a disputed mosque has sown the seeds of communal hatred in the country. The place was chosen because it was Ayodhya where five religions; Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism have their roots and all existed side by side.

The city once was an oasis of communal coexistence and there was perfect harmony among the communities living there. The raking up the issue of Ramjanamboohmi was a deliberate attempt to destroy this plural culture of Ayodhya and making that as a symbol, it has rattled the secular character of the country.

Even more than twenty years to that event, the seeds of hatred that has sown around this mosque/temple controversy, has poisoned the relationship among the communities so much so that it is hard break free from that cluttered mindset.

The yatra was taken out to combat such preachers of hate and to propagate the idea of shared cultural history. The purpose of the yatra was to resist the forces of fascism, communalism and untouchability. It was to promote idea of peace, unity and brotherhood.

All along during the yatra, programmes of mass contact were held where it was stressed that the country is in the dire need of communal harmony. Th development and progress of the country is only possible when an atmosphere of love and harmony is created and this could be done by knitting the people together.

The yatra concluded at the hospice of Hazrat Nizamuddin, a towering sufi saint of India, whose most popular phrase was “ do not give me scissor because it cuts, give me needle because it stitches.”

The members of the yatra later paid tribute to the soul of Mahatma Gandhi at the Rajghat in New Delhi. The prayed for the communal peace and harmony in the country at the monument of the father of the nation, who fell to the bullets of lunatic Hindu chauvinist.

A conference on communal harmony was organized at the Gandhi Samriti at Rajghat where most of the speakers stressed on ways and means to promote communal harmony in India. Some prominent speakers were; Asghar Ali Engineer, Lalit Kumar, Haneef Shastri, Zafarul-Islam Khan, Mazher Hussain, Saroj Khan Choudhry, Deepak Singh and Muhammad Afzal.

Communalism Combat (Teesta Sitalvad), Viswa Yuva Sadbhavana Parishad (Seshnath Dubey), Asha Parivar ( Sandeep Pandey), Ayodhya ki Awaz (Yugal Kishor Saran Shastri), Milli Gazzete (Zafarul Islam Khan), Sarvdharam Sadbhav Kendra Trust (Zafar Saifullah), Confederation of Voluntary Association-Cova (Mazher Hussain), Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (Mohammad Ahmad), Rashtriya Yuva Sangathan (Kumar Prashant), Centre for study of Society and Secularism-CCSS (Asghar Ali Engineer) and Centre for Human Rights and Social Welfare (Saroj Khan Choudhry) were some of the prominent organizations associated with this yatra.

India is perhaps the only country in the world where there is mix of several religious identities existing side by side. There is a general desire among various communities to lead a life of peaceful coexistence eve though attempts have been made regular intervals to break this blissful peace. The resilience of the Indian society has always discarded such narrow outlook and have cherished the ideal that all religion have equal place and their followers must live in perfect harmony.

It wont be out of context to say that in our country there exists two diametrically opposite forces at work. One, those who are working to destroying the communal amity and the other, working relentlessly to bridge the communal.

The communal harmony yatra was an attempt to isolate the preachers of hate and to promote the idea to live in peace. It was also an effort to initiate the process of interfaith dialogue to resolve all the outstanding issues in a peaceful manner.

One has to salute those people who have taken such an initiative, and it would be a service to the nation to highlight such a noble cause. One wish that more and more people join in such initiative and this humble beginning may become a movement soon.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

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