Post Gujarat - Reflections on Tasks for Human Rights movement in India

By Ram Puniyani

[25 January 2003]

A. Social Movements - Tasks ahead

1. The graph of electoral defeats for BJP got reversed after the
Godhara and Gujarat happenings. The role of popular perceptions, the mass
consciousness in elections is there for all of us to see. The trivia,
which comes in the form of spreading false hood about history and other
things, like the nature of the other community etc. has gripped the social
thinking. Gujarat demonstrates that every new episode of violence
intensifies this social common sense, and one can say this doctored mass
consciousness forms the base on which communal politics operates its
agenda. In a way this, Hindutva, has hegemonised the mindset of vast
section of society. Violating the harmony and syncretism every new episode
of violence gives the confidence to the communal forces that they can
operate from higher pedestal to usurps electoral ground also.
2. This hides behind itself the creeping communalization of society,
through word of mouth, media and social intervention of Sangh Parivar
(SP). Also anti-minority sentiment gets intensified with every act
committed by terrorists. The erosion of social and political institutions
is going at the fast pace.
3. The social movements for Human Rights while seriously concerned
about the offensive of Hindutva are unable to find the suitable
alternative ground for building as democratic plural platform.
4. Gujarat again shows that Hindu Right has learnt faster that the
emotional issues (Ram Temple) and polarization (communal violence) are the
basic mechanisms, which can bring them to power. In consequence the post
Gujarat strategy of Hindutva movements has aggressively resorted to
Moditva, the rabid version of Hindutva. The hate mongering towards weaker
sections of society has been steeped up.
5. Hindutva by now has been able to perfect its machine. While the
ideological formulations are done at the level of RSS, pleasant looking
masks of BJP are the electoral warriors, Hate Speech is specialization of
VHP, and the street violence is the privilage of Bajarang Dal. Mechanisms
have been evolved to mobilize the deprived sections of society, unemployed
youth, retrenched workers, section of Dalits and Adivasis. The identity
politics resorted to be SP (Sangh Parivar) has overshadowed the politics
of Rights, democratic values.
6. The established parties are groping for answers. A big section has
succumbed to the coalition politics initiated by BJP. The most painful
examples being George Fernades on side and Mayawati on the other.
7. The response of those trying to save the democracy and Indian
constitution has to begin forthwith; we are already late by decades to say
the least.
8. The building up of democratic platform has to be many layered. The
activists of social movements are the Base of the forthcoming struggle.
a. The social movements aspirations have to be coalesced at the level
of programs. The fragmentation of the progressive forces has to be
addressed and to begin with a loose programmatic association of different
groups has to be evolved around the issues of downtrodden.
b. The core problems, which need urgent attention, relate to economic
rights, social equality and gender justice. In the spectrum of issues to
be taken up there can be a long list starting from employment rights to
anti-Dalit, anti-women, anti-minority atrocities.
c. Another layer of the struggle is the one related to civil and
democratic liberties.
d. The alternative schemes for most of these sections, employment,
protection, education, work etc. has to be linked to the communitarian and
social life of the weaker sections of society.
e. Countering Hindutva hegemony at the level of social consciousness
has to be linked to efforts to promote secular vales and education.

9.The positive fallout of Gujarat is the emergence of fora to
work on these issues. The laudable work being done by these groups
needs substance and coordination.
10. Horizontal issue based linkage of the groups working on these
issues will be mutually strengthening.

B. Need For Education related to Secular Values

1. Gujarat carnage more than ever before has brought to our notice
the communalization of society. This process begins with doctoring of the
minds of people in general and later gets transformed in to hate for the
other and forms the basis of various communal actions, the most glaring of
which is communal violence. It also brings along a silent sanction to the
communal policies of the Govt.
2. The RSS has been working on doctoring of the minds from last eight
decades. Its shakha baudhiks are the root form, which this poison is
percolated to the broad layers of society. This core process is assisted
a. The communal slant of school books, which gets worsened as and
when the BJP comes to power
b. The media has a strong role in the process; especially large
section of the language press spread it in a strong way. Saamna and
Gujarat Samachar may be the worst examples but they have parallels in
different states.
C. Most of the cultural space has also been hegemonized by the communal

3. We have to work against odds. The myths and stereotypes about
minorities abound and form the base for the communal consciousness
4. The formation of these ideas begins from early age and keeps
getting stronger.
5. The task of education has to take into consideration that
a. Discussions alone cannot transform the societal consciousness.
b. The process of social education in the values of harmony has to be
a multi-pronged effort, in which intervention in media, cultural programs
and direct interactive discussions with different layers of society need
to be undertaken. Also these efforts have to have a reference point of the
social movements for social, economic and gender justice

6. In order of importance and logistics the following groups have to
be approached
a. Social activists already involved with movements
b. Media personnel
c. Students at different levels
d. Teachers
e. the groups of workers, dalits, women and adivasis through their
associations and through basti associations.
f. If possible the liberal sections of society through different
7. Some groups can specialize in cultural and media intervention. The
cultural activities include street theatre, song groups, local cultural
expressions (Powadas, Quawallis etc.) Street theatre seems to be most
feasible and effective media of expressions. Showing of films has a great
8. Discussion and Lectures- the workshops of activist, students and
teachers can be one major conduit. The Basti conventions by political
activists are another major ones. Teachers can be approached through their
associations, students through NSS and other fora of the colleges.
9. The topics to be covered in sequential order can be as follows
a. Myths about medieval history, temple destructions, forcible
conversions, alliances of kings, Syncretic traditions, saints and sufis,
culture and religion
b. Religion and Human society, Aspects of Religions, type of
religions- Adivasi, regional, Prophet based. Evolution of the concept of
God, Religious communities in India.
c. Freedom Struggle- Secularization process, social relations of
caste and gender, British in India, Formation and goals of Indian National
Congress, Rise of Communal politics-its goals, Muslim League, Hindu

d. Partition tragedy and Kashmir Problem
e. Communal Violence and politics in Post independence India, decade
of 80s, Meenakshipuram, Shah Bano, Ghettoisation of Minorities, Uniform
civil code
f. Stereotypes of minorities-four wives: Twenty Children, Loyalty to
Pakistan, conservatism
g. Terrorism, Imperialism and Islam
h. RSS the multi-headed hydra-Genesis, growth, agenda
i. Struggle for secular society,
10. The discussions need to be backed up by
a. Projects-meet the people from minority community, interact observe
Paper cuttings about crime, communal violence, being part of riot
investigation team, mohalla committees
b. Sharing of resources-books, cassettes, bibliography
c. Libraries with above materials
d. Formation of work groups for different activities, innovative
community functions

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