Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fwd: [All India Secular Forum] Report of the Gujarat State Convention of All...

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From: Irfan AEngineer <>
Date: Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 7:16 PM
Subject: [All India Secular Forum] Report of the Gujarat State Convention of All...
To: All India Secular Forum <>

Report of the Gujarat State Convention of All...
Irfan AEngineer 7:16pm Jun 27
Report of the Gujarat State Convention of All India Secular Forum held on 26th June 2012 in Vadodra
State Convention is the democratic process of AISF to discuss reports of activities of the organization, decide future tasks and elect State Convenor and a Convening Committee to oversee the activities of the organization. Two Gujarat State Conventions of AISF were held earlier when Digant Oza was the Gujarat state convenor. After Digant Oza's sad demise, though the activities of the Forum were carried on, State Convention was not held. However, during the interregnum, partnerships with various organizations working in Gujarat were strengthened. The State Convention was to further strengthen this process and help evolve a decision making structure – Convening Committee – for the state.
Participating Organizations:
Aman Samuday; Centre for Development; SAFAR; Movement for Secular Democracy; PUCL; ARCH Vahini, Zidna Ilmi Trust; Parvaz, Sahiyar; Rajpipla Social Service Society; Bharitya Muslim Mahila Andolan; Jan Vikas; Darshan; Lok Kala Manch; Indian Society Youth Movement; (Utthan could not participate in this convention as they had their internal evaluation and planning on the same date and therefore they expressed their regrets). There were about 60 participants in all representing these organizations and prominent activists, academicians working for justice and peace in Gujarat.
The Convention was inaugurated by Prof. Juzer Bandukwala, a well known academician, human rights activist and a peace activist. He invited the participants to think of future and not get stuck in 2002. Prof. Bandukwala said that after the 2002 carnage, the secular democratic forces fought determinedly for justice and they did get some measure of justice due to determined fight of human rights activists, particularly Teesta Setalvad, Mukul Sinha, and many others. The second post-2002 carnage achievement was that Muslims have learnt the importance of education. Earlier there were 250 Muslim schools, now there are 650 Muslim schools. Practice of polygamy has reduced among Muslims now. Prof. Bandukwala lamented though that there are still no good libraries run by the community. Prof. Bandukwla further said that after the riots a section of Muslims have prospered through their own efforts in business and by acquiring skills of an electrician, repairing various gadgets etc. However, politics has been the cause of all the losses and the violence, and hence, he recommended that the community should withdraw itself from participation in representational politics and focus more on education and economic issues.
Prakash Shah, Working President of PUCL in Gujarat and Movement for Secular Democracy disagreed with Prof. Bandukwala on the issue of political participation as it is political participation of all citizen determines the form and structure and nature of governance – governance being a social contract and it also determines whether we would have a secular and democratic form of government or a theocratic state. We should have laws that liberate us as human beings and insulate us from the arbitrary actions of the state, religious establishments and markets – we have to fight for our own liberation as citizens and defend our freedom. In that sense we are all freedom fighters.
Prof. Rohit Shukla raised the question – why the communal conflicts are so intense in Gujarat. What kind of system we are creating? And what is the economic model of Gujarat touted that is being as ideal? A section of elite is interested in making this backward country a world power. We are told that is possible only through capitalism. In Gujarat, feudal structures are strong in the society on the one hand and on the other hand, all studies show that number of person-days of labour generated per crore rupees invested has drastically reduced in Gujarat. We have jobless, voiceless, futureless, rootless and ruthless growth. Capital has unlimited and unrestrained power to exploit human and environment. This is the Gujarat model now touted for all India. In Gujarat model, there is more propaganda than concrete results. In order to come to power do whatever necessary to mobilize votes from maximum number of people – but work for elite to sustain oneself in power is the Gujarat model. We will have to deconstruct this model and create awareness. We were told if you want democracy, capitalism is necessary – there is no democracy without capitalism. Since socialism is a bad system and unwanted, one will have to gulp down all the evils of capitalism to enjoy democracy. So therefore in Gujarat we have only capitalism without democracy.
Uttambhai Parmar intervened to point out that we need an inclusive society and answer to Hindu communalism was not creating fence around Muslim community. Giving example of the school run by them, he said that since they have never excluded a deserving Muslim child admission only on the ground that s/he is a Muslim, there are no Muslim schools in Kim whereas there are many in the surrounding taluqas like Mangrol and Olpad. We need to work to make our institutions more inclusive rather than establish community based institutions. We need to make religion irrelevant in our public interactions. Our regular interaction with members of different religions helps us overcome our prejudices and helps us learn more about different cultures and the resultant dialogue can help bring about change in attitudes. We need to be freed from limitations put on our power of imagination and thinking by religion and religious scriptures and we should be able to go beyond what is stated in religious texts.
Reshma and Truptiben Shah from Sahiyar shared her experience of trainings that they have with students in eight schools from standards 8-10 on gender justice, environmental issues, and need for communal harmony. They also provide legal aid in cases of domestic violence or conflicts within families. They use competitions (in various fields and performances) as a tool to create women leaders. They train women leaders to be self sufficient as far as possible in handling the problems of the community and conflicts over various issues. During communal violence, many Muslim women were forced to take up leadership roles while interacting with state structures as men were vulnerable. They witnessed this natural ability / quality of leadership in some women during crisis situation and used it to train them to sustain and develop their leadership roles to ensure that they are not pushed back to accept traditional gender roles within their respective families once relative "normalcy" is restored. She highlighted that autonomous women's movement became necessary as gender issues were always relegated to secondary importance to be dealt only after the "main" problem (like communal conflict or caste conflict or conflict with the employer or inflation etc.) was resolved otherwise women's issues were considered divisive. Likewise secularism was also a cross cutting issue and should be part of ever every issue and every movement and organisations that want to raise awareness on secularism should also develop as an autonomous movement.
Rohit Prajapati opined that fight against communalism is not a project or an event to be organized. Fight against communal attitudes has to be a fulltime profession where we listen to people having communal attitudes at ease and dialoguing with them in a relaxed atmosphere. These dialogues should be at every nook and corner where people naturally assemble during their spare time. It is during these dialogues that we should be addressing the communal attitudes that they have imbibed by making them reflect on them and equipping them with adequate facts. We should not merely have monologues and preaching. We also need to develop new forms of struggles and protests which interest the participants rather than wearing them out.
Hirenbhai Gandhi of INSAF and Darshan organization said that Congress and Congress policies created a fertile ground for communal forces to build on and prosper. People do find that politicians are addressing their concerns and economic needs and there is no space for welfare in the economic policies. Marginalized and voiceless, they turn to communal ideologies and identity politics for solace. Communal ideologies therefore become wily nily necessary in order to sustain 8%-10% growth rate. He also emphasised that we should struggle to have structures of accountability in place and push for legislations like Equal Opportunity Commission and Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011.
Dwarika Nath Rath: Inflation and price rise and deepening of economic crisis makes a common man turn to communal politics. He defined secularism as separation of state and religion – that state will have no religion nor will it interfere in affairs of any religious establishments. State has to uphold rule of law. Secularism is necessary to strengthen the democratic rights movement and defend democracy.
Zakia Soman traced the struggle of Muslim Women and the process that led to the birth of BMMA. The demonization of Muslims after 9/11 increased drastically on account of international media reporting. This fuelled rampant communal profiling of Muslims. Women felt further marginalized by the patriarchal structures within the community and faced violence and oppression both as minority and as women. Muslim women met in 2005 and shared their problems. They decided to meet regularly and out of this process BMMA was created. BMMA struggles against patriarchy within the community as well as communal prejudices using egalitarian theology of Islam and provisions of equality in Constitution. They are also focussing on PM. 15 pt. Programme.
Reports of Organizations:
AISF Gujarat hosted and mobilized funds for National Convention in February 2011 in Ahmedabad. AISF had also participated in the campaign "Insaf Ki Dagar" organized by many organizations in Ahmedabad to commemorate the decade of Carnage in Gujarat. A seminar on the occasion on the topic "Lessons learnt from Gujarat" was organized. AISF has been focusing on youth and partnered celebration of Vasant Rajab day on 1st July 2011 wherein college youth were mobilized. AISF has used the medium of Street Play to sensitize people on awareness regarding need for communal harmony. Recently study circles have been conducted on ideologies that mobilize dalits in Ahmedabad and Anand. Partners of AISF have been working on the issue of implementation of PM's 15 point programme for the minorities. Janvikas, partner organization has recently conducted a status study of people who were internally displaced by Gujarat carnage. The study revealed that people are still living in sub human condition and in colonies, deprived of basic amenities, employment opportunities and infrastructure facilities. AISF partner organizations also organized a protest meeting against the farcical sadbhavanas organized by the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Fr. Manjooran reported about the activities of Rajpipla Social Service Society and Adivasi Mahasabha that adivasis living downstream of Narmada Dam have become pauperised as their water had been dried up. There is no infrastructure in adivasi areas and not even ST buses, the tribals are losing their identity as they are being forcibly assimilated into the "mainstream" and Hindutva had accelerated this process, implementation of Forest Rights Act was next to negligent and state had decided that not more than 10% of forest land that adivasis were entitled to would be allotted to them.
Janisar reported activities of Jan Vikas in Khambat and their rights based work for people's development in Udaan and their work to create secular awareness. Gita Reported on Activities of SAFAR in Maliya Taluka for equality and inclusion of Muslims against all discrimination in education, lack of school, electricity, lack of a bus stand, bad roads and lack of other infrastructure. Maliya was underdeveloped only because it was inhabited by Muslims. We try to change the attitudes of people and train them to be more respectful oeach other. Romel reported his activities targeting youth as young people too were neglected and marginalized by age hegemonism. ISYM uses street theatre to mobilize and to reach out to youth. They also work for value education among children. Natubhai reported the activities of Lok Kala Manch which uses street theatre to bring about awareness. Sharifbhai Malek of Centre for Democracy reported that they work on 4 issues – Peace and Reconciliation; Education; Vocational Training and Gender Justice. They have 8 knowledge building centres where youth gather. They run libraries in these centres subscribing to various periodicals and newspapers. People following various religions gather here.
Discussion on Future programmes:
Various suggestions for future programmes that came up were as follows:
• Spread the AISF work in new districts and areas, try and get more organizations on to the platform.
• Work for implementation of PM's 15 point Programme in Gujarat
• Work to bring about awareness on necessity of legislations like Equal Opportunity Commission and Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011
• Struggle for more inclusive schools and institutions. Work to improve education.
• Have our website and post relevant and good articles on the website so that everyone can access the website. Prepare good literature to educate people on the nature and impact of communalism and capitalism. We can also create a blog.
• We should undertake fact finding whenever there are conflicts and should have regular meeting within community and dialoguing with them and listening to them.
• We can have collective reading and discussions, study circles, promote cultural activities like street plays and film exhibitions
• Organize nagrik sammelans to discuss problems of the society to counter caste based sammelans
• We need legal aid and support network
• We need to support each other and hold hands of every organization struggling for justice and communal harmony.
Election of Convening Committee:
The following convening Committee was elected:
Hozefa Ujjaini (Gujarat State Convenor)
Gita (SAFAR)
Reshma Vohra (Sahiyar)
Noorjehan Ansari
Noor Jehan (BMMA)

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