From Participant to Leader: A Journey of Peace

Story Teller: Lokesh Kalal, Peace Fellow, Udaipur Peace Centre

Mohit, a resident of Ghati village of Thana Panchayat is a student of B.A. in SBP College, Dungarpur. Before engaging with peace center he had only friends belonging to his own caste.  When he came to the youth meeting at Bambala center, for the first time he saw youth of different castes and religions talking about social issues, a phenomenon that was extremely rare in the community he lived. He felt the need to be part of this type of social activity and expressed his desire to join us. He started coming to Karawara peace center but had lot of inhibitions to talk with youth belonging to other religions and communities. Most of his interactions with youth of other religions were only for minimum required communication. He avoided informal and personal communication. As he continued to participate in various activities of peace center he started becoming friendly with youth from other religions and castes. The Peace center sent him on an Internship programme of Pravah, an NGO along with his friend Arun. He was placed in Narmada Bachao Andolan, Madhya Pradesh, as part of the internship programme. After coming back from Internship we found a huge change in his personality. He took leadership among the youth of Ghaati and brought to us a proposal to open a peace centre at Ghaati. Ghaati was far from the other peace centres and he felt the need to have a peace centre for his local community. The Peace center head office accepted the request and with an inauguration program opened a youth center in Ghati. Today, more than 50 youth are engaged in peace center activities directly and indirectly at the Ghaati centre under Mohit’s leadership.

 

Think before you Act

Story Teller: Lokesh Kalal, Peace Fellow, Udaipur Peace Centre

Bambala is situated on the Aravali Mountains; a part of bambala falls in Karawara Panchayat and the rest in Sarera Panchayat. Today, there are two Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Bambala, which have been functioning since October 2012. Before the SHG’s were formed, women never gathered socially except for marriages or deaths. There were personal conflicts between women. With the setting up of SHGs women gather every month on fixed day of meeting and help each other to solve problems.

At a recent meeting, women discussed the issue of fasting from food for blessings. The belief is that when a woman fasts the divine endows her children with blessings. A priest took leadership and instructed the Adivasis women to fast on a Monday and donate clothes to him. Kuri devi, one of SHG leaders’, said that the priest is misleading women with the motive of gathering money and clothes and not for the betterment of our sons. Sumitra, another SHG member, said that she has been fasting since many years but none of her problems have been solved. Naresh concluded the discussion and said that we Adivasi people never wished for anything from God and by keeping fast, nothing will be improve, instead one will get physically and mentally weak.  Finally all women decided not to donate anything to priest and some women said that we will fast out of our own will and not upon anyone’s instructions.

This discussion among the women is an initial sign of the end of superstitions among the Adivasis.

 

Love in the time of Communal unrest

Story Teller: Lokesh Kalal, Peace Fellow, Udaipur Peace Centre

On June 1, 2015 a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl of Karawara village eloped and got married. The news spread all over the village and people started criticizing it. Those active in politics and few Hindu organizations conducted secret meetings and planned to take strict action in this particular issue, which would have been violent, taking the form of religious conflict between communities. The boy’s father got some warning letters from different individuals and organizations.

Let’s look at both Muslim boy and Hindu girl’s background; both of their families refused to accept the couple. Still the VHP people wanted her to go back to her parent’s home. When our team heard this news, we made efforts to help both parties compromise and also both communities’ reach an understanding. The peace centre team organized a meeting at Karawara the opinion that the couple being matured independent individuals having the right to choose their own partners, had decided to elope themselves. Therefore the community doesn’t have the right to dictate to the youth about such life decisions and give this issue any communal colour. Some people aggressively tried to divert the discussion by interrupting us every time. They openly said that Muslim boys target the Hindu girls to get married but Hindu boys never do that. As an answer, we also mentioned that in the past, there was a case, when Muslim girl eloped with a boy from Adivasi community. Then few elders of the village convinced both sides to not file the F.I.R. and they agreed. Finally a decision was made that the couple would not be accepted by either side and in Karawara village in the future. It was concluded that this particular issue should not harm community relationships and nobody will conduct anymore meetings and discussions regarding this in the future. The success was that the issue did not deteriorate into communal violence in Karawara.

Ghulam Mustafa shows the way

Mushtaqali Sheikh, Peace Fellow, Ahmedabad Peace Centre

Mansoori Ghulam Mustafa Abdul Rehman, aged 22, residing in Gomtipur in Ahmedabad comes from a family of third generation Muslim migrants from Uttar Pradesh. Eldest son of a family of eight siblings, Ghulam Mustafa had to give up education at a young age in order to fend for his family. He works as cloth vendor in Ahmedabad. Mustafa has been associated with National Peace Group, the local NGO since the last 3 years, but it was only lately that Mustafa began taking active leadership in the peace Centre activities. A diversity walk, organized by the centre on 5th of July got Mustafa back again as an enthused participant and leader in the peace activities. The culture walk got him enthusiastic and also took away certain doubts that he held regarding peace building activities. Filled with new vigour, Mustafa took up initiative to organize the yearly Iftaar celebration. He decided to do it with a difference. He set up the the Iftaar feast (Community meal during the Muslim Holy month of Ramzaan) at the most popular Hindu temple of Lord Jaganath in Ahmedabad. He was successful in drawing co-operation from the Temple priest for this function. The Iftaar for communal harmony drew participation of the Hindu, Muslim, Valmiki(Scheduled Caste) youth. It sent a powerful message of peace and communal harmony across the communally sensitive area of Ahmedabad.

On 2nd August, 2015, a clash broke out between two drunken men in the community. One belonged to the Muslim community from the neighbouring area of Mariyan Bibi Nagar and the other belonged to a Dalit community from Shatranj Nagar. The incident turned into a communal clash. Shakraganchi area (home to Hindus and Dalits) and Mansoori Nagar(Mustafa’s home) is situated in close proximity to the conflict area. Mustafa took initiative and at once contacted members of a local NGO in Shakraganchi area and with their help convinced people of Shakraganchi and Mansoori to stay away from violence.  As police intervened the law and order situation was brought under control. His efforts were successful in keeping the conflict from spreading to into his community.

After these incidents, Mustafa who earlier was restricted by his family from participating in Street Play performances found the support of his family to take part in Street Plays organized by the Peace Centre. Today he has successfully performed at twenty five street plays in the area on various themes of gender and social equality.