We can see the rise of really communally motivated political forces within all countries, including ones like India. It is important to bear in mind that religious motivations can be extremely dangerous and can result in bloodshed. The political careerists will go to any extent to jeopardize the lives of ordinary citizens. This is why they will not think twice before indulging in venomous activities like spewing hatred against any particular community, race, ethnicity, religion etc. Only if the masses in general are rational and conscious, will they not get swayed. This is a difficult task but must be achieved through hard work and perseverance on part of well meaning individuals. The following are the top 10 ways of dealing with communalism.
10 Best Ways to Fight Communalism:
1. Use the simplest humanistic logic
Despite our differences, whether one is a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh or from any community for that matter, we are all made of flesh and blood. This is a very powerful statement and people will be able to relate to it without much difficulty. Humanism appeals to all, because most people will believe in a non-violent, peaceful conciliatory approach when it comes to conflicts. Only by engaging in an in-depth conversation can we be sure if the person is really assimilating the information we are providing.
2. Ask people to be rational
Falsification of history is a very common strategy of the communal elements. If we look at some of the major ethnic or territorial disputes today, we will find that in most cases, it always boils down to some sort of contestation over space, identity and sense of belonging. The Babri Masjid was destroyed in a very controversial manner and the whole world watched in shock. India takes pride in calling itself the largest democracy and yet it cannot protect the religious rights of the minority. Besides, one must always read history objectively, from a materialistic angle. Getting all sentimental about it will not help.
3. Countering the “I was here before” type of logic
This type of reasoning leads us nowhere. A good example will be the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Or the tug of war over Kashmir. The people of Kashmir are not really asked as to what they want. Instead, both India and Pakistan try to establish their hegemony over this piece of land. The history is way too complex to go into, but only one thing will suffice here – that it makes no sense to claim who was the “original inhabitant” of a place. We can keep going back in time and find some different community which used to live there!
4. Being sympathetic
Whenever you confront a person who has a communal mindset, the idea should be to immediately sensitize that person about the condition faced by the group to which they are being hostile. For instance, any anti Muslim Hindu extremist should be told about the various reports like those of Mishra Commission which clearly show how the minority sections are socio-economically exploited. Some may even be able to empathize based on their own experiences.
5. Understanding social complexity in its totality
It would be rather silly to think that maintaining law and order by using coercion and force can actually help prevent riots. The places where various communities live together should be visited by peace loving people and interactions should be encouraged and initiated. The children can become great mascots of peace. They have a natural innocence which can capture the heart of most. Showing documentaries of previous riots and the wanton destruction of property and invaluable human lives can also help in a big way.
6. Building solidarity at various levels of society
Various communities remain intertwined and interdependent. These networks and channels must be explored thoroughly. For instance, the people should be encouraged to explore their other identities apart from the religious one. This may be a national one or even a much smaller one, like that of a certain professional group or even a school and so on. The more these communities engage with each other on a normal level, they will see that they are not much different at all.
7. Fighting prejudices daily
Unfortunately, we are brought up in a society that does not know how to celebrate diversity. This is why we shudder at the prospect of having to share space with the “other”. This mindset has to change as well. However, the person’s mind needs to be receptive enough as well. Asking people to be calm and just looking through the prism of humanism can be very effective.
8. Fostering a secular culture
There are many religious festivities. Firstly, any person of any community can be asked to enjoy any religious festivity. This will break the ice. Secondly, there should be efforts to encourage alternative forms of cultural festivities which are not related to religion. Posters, paintings, songs, street plays can help build the bridge.
9. Learning from the past
History teaches us to be patient and observant. We must not let knee jerk reactions predominate. For instance in India, there was and indeed still is a huge uproar, with ideologically divided camps, over whether there should be a temple at what is referred to as Ram Janmabhoomi by some Hinduism adherents, at Ayodhya or a Mosque. Experience clearly shows that patient negotiation alone can solve the problem.
10. Envisioning a better society
Most importantly, it is necessary to build a vision for an alternative society, free from such hatred. True democracy will mean accepting the rich cultural, ethnic, sexual and various other forms of diversity in which we live. Embracing the “other” should be the theme of this better society. One should try to find out ways of achieving such an existence to truly make our living more meaningful.
Written By: Kisholoy Mukherjee