Journey of CSSS

Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) was founded in 1993 in Mumbai by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Dr. George Ninan and K N Pannicker. Though CSSS came into being after the 1992 Bombay riots, work on similar lines was carried out even prior to CSSS in the form of EKTA. EKTA was a collective of trade unions, civil liberties organizations, organizations struggling for gender justice, and other democratic organizations. These organizations felt the need to respond to communal mobilization and violence that was on rise in the 1980s, particularly in the northern and western region of the country. The Parliament on the one hand passed legislation nullifying maintenance to divorced Muslim women granted by the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano judgement and opening the gates of Ramjanmabhoomi temple for Darshan in Ayodhya on the other hand. Hate speeches resulted in communal polarization. Ekta organized peace marches, rallies, peace songs and created popular and scholarly literature to counter communal propaganda. The strength and the largest contribution of EKTA and Dr. Engineer was perhaps the fact finding undertaken into instances of targeted violence and meticulously documenting it to publish objective and insightful reports. Important reports include reports on Aurangabad riots, Bhiwandi Disturbances-Linguistic or Communal, Denial of Citizenship Rights and Marginalization, Malegaon blast etc. In this way EKTA kept the secular social movement thriving by voicing democratic and secular concerns. These activists used protests to create the much needed visibility for secular movement. Activists contributed their time and resources that were possible for them. Their commitment was the driving force of EKTA and its work.

The communal riots in Mumbai and other cities in India after the demolition of Babri Mosque, a national consultation was called to discuss the response to communal onslaught. The National Consultation was attended by eminent scholars, academicians, journalist etc. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer was unanimously given the responsibility to set up an institution to carry on work of Ekta more systematically and to raise resources for it. Subsequently when CSSS was formed, focus was on creating a network of peace activists and trainers who could work on mitigation of conflicts and establishing peace and harmony. To achieve this, scores of workshops were conducted with youth, women and activists from different parts of the country. These workshops aimed to educate the youth and empower them with information and facts to counter communal stereotyping, build their perspective and discussed strategies and activities to work for peace. These youth in turn worked in their own communities to spread the message of peace. Along with this, CSSS produced knowledge required to sustain the movement through research projects and disseminate the same. Some of the research topics include Uniform Civil Code or Religious Reform, Composite culture in Mumbai, Policing system from minority’s perspective. Muslim women in India & secular courts, the acid test of democracy: Equal opportunity commission etc. CSSS brings out its fortnightly publication in form of Secular Perspective which is essentially a commentary on a contemporary issue and a journal called Indian Journal of Secularism (IJS) which is published every three months. Seminars have been organized to debate over secular discourse and the challenges facing it. To work in communities, CSSS provided fellowships to peace activists who work in different states to consolidate peace and highlight syncretic culture. CSSS understands that macro changes are possible through engaging with the State and influencing policies to uphold the Constitutional principles.

The CSSS is moving more in the direction of a think tank where it analyses policies and contributes to knowledge building through ground breaking research. This research and facts will help in policy making. In this process, relevant research and seminars will be conducted. At the same time, it envisages engagement with communities and youth through the medium of peace centers and culture. Resource kits are designed to help young trainers work in communities and become change makers. Through these mediums CSSS will strengthen the process of establishing trust, dialogue and harmony between communities and bridge gaps to form peaceful, just and multicultural society. Highlighting diversity and syncretic culture will reemphasize the pluralistic character of our society which is also the foundation of democracy.