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Varanasi peace activists begin campaign to maintain communal harmony

Activists and leaders from all faiths will visit sensitive neighbourhoods, market areas and commercial centres to deter people from engaging in violence

Sabrangindia 17 May 2022

Gyanvapi

A group of peace activists hailing from all faiths have come together in Varanasi to ensure peace and communal harmony are maintained amidst the growing controversy surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque – Kashi Vishwanath temple dispute.

Nearly 40 such activists held a series of meetings on Monday as the city remained tense in wake of claims of a Shivling being discovered in the Wazu Khana (a place where devotees wash their hands before prayers) of the Gyanvapi mosque. In fact, on the day that a lower court in Varanasi announced that though it would not replace the Advocate Commissioner tasked with conducting a video survey of the mosque, it appointed two more such commissioners, the order was delayed, purportedly to make provisions for adequate deployment of police and other security personnel fearing an outbreak of communal violence.

The activists hail from not only many different faiths, but also a multitude of socio-economic groups. While some are labour rights activists, others are political activists, some are human rights defenders, and some represent the unorganized sector. Some of the activists who attended these meetings include farmer leader Ramjanam, Dalit activist Anup Shramik, Gandhians Sunil Sahasrabuddhe and Vijay Narayan Singh, Dr Muniza Khan, senior social scientist and senior coordinator, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Shia mosque spokesperson Haji Farman Hyder, Left leader Manish Sharma, Praval Singh from the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vallabh Pandey from Asha, social activists Parmita and Jagruti and Fazlur Rehman Ansari from the Bunkar Sajha Manch.

The activists have resolved to keep live interactions with all sections of Varanasi society open, including among the trading community, minority communities and youth, visit areas, hold meetings and initiate dialogues. There was a strong feeling among senior local activists that given the aggressive hostility shown for such peace assertions from the administration and the government, peace and harmony initiatives should be spearheaded locally. The fact that this issue is being deliberately showcased to dull protests, and people’s anger against the sharp worsening economic situation -- unemployment and price rise -- was also a point of emphasis and discussion that will be taken through dialogues and discussion among the people of Varanasi.

Gyanvapi

Gyanvapi

After the meetings, the activists have decided the following:

1)     To go to communally sensitive neighbourhoods and hold meetings with residents, particularly youth to dissuade them from engaging in violence.

2)     To meet various business owners and traders to devise ways to protect shops and commercial establishments.

3)     To hold daily meetings between 4 P.M and 5 P.M in different spots across the city with local residents to ascertain if they fear any outbreak of violence and discuss measures to counter the same.

4)     To hold meetings with leaders and preachers of all faiths to urge them to inspire their followers to stay calm and not engage in violence.

5)     To not allow any outside elements to take over the peace initiative as many of them are just seen as publicity hungry self-styled activists who are only interested in media coverage.

6)     A delegation of activists is also likely to meet members of the civic administration and police force.

7)     To hold sensitization meetings with local media-persons so that mis-reportage and fake news are prevented from vitiating an already charged atmosphere.

There are also ongoing discussions about holding an interfaith peace march. However, in light of the outbreak of violence in other parts of the country during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, there are fears that such a rally could be infiltrated by miscreants in a bid to discredit the objectives of the organisers. These concerns may also lead the police to not give permission for the march in the first place, and the activists are determined to operate strictly within the purview of the law.

It is noteworthy that for the past several centuries, Varanasi has been home to hundreds of thousands of Muslims, many of whom are engaged in their traditional occupations such as boatmen and weavers. The city, which is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, has a long and rich history of communal harmony and the activists who have been holding meetings to discuss peace initiatives are hoping to find peaceful means to uphold and defend this syncretic culture.

Related:

Shivling ‘found’ on Gyanvapi mosque premises, court orders area sealed

Gyanvapi case: Two more advocate commissioners added to Shringar Gauri survey team

Gyanvapi case: Court to pronounce order in Shringar Gauri temple survey matter today

Gyanvapi case: One out of five withdrawing name from Maa Shringar Gauri temple petition?

Gyanvapi case: Videographic survey of Maa Shringar Gauri temple begins

Gyanvapi case: Allahabad HC stays ASI survey, proceedings before lower court

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court to hear petition to hold prayers in Shringar Gauri temple

 

Varanasi peace activists begin campaign to maintain communal harmony

Activists and leaders from all faiths will visit sensitive neighbourhoods, market areas and commercial centres to deter people from engaging in violence

Gyanvapi

A group of peace activists hailing from all faiths have come together in Varanasi to ensure peace and communal harmony are maintained amidst the growing controversy surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque – Kashi Vishwanath temple dispute.

Nearly 40 such activists held a series of meetings on Monday as the city remained tense in wake of claims of a Shivling being discovered in the Wazu Khana (a place where devotees wash their hands before prayers) of the Gyanvapi mosque. In fact, on the day that a lower court in Varanasi announced that though it would not replace the Advocate Commissioner tasked with conducting a video survey of the mosque, it appointed two more such commissioners, the order was delayed, purportedly to make provisions for adequate deployment of police and other security personnel fearing an outbreak of communal violence.

The activists hail from not only many different faiths, but also a multitude of socio-economic groups. While some are labour rights activists, others are political activists, some are human rights defenders, and some represent the unorganized sector. Some of the activists who attended these meetings include farmer leader Ramjanam, Dalit activist Anup Shramik, Gandhians Sunil Sahasrabuddhe and Vijay Narayan Singh, Dr Muniza Khan, senior social scientist and senior coordinator, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Shia mosque spokesperson Haji Farman Hyder, Left leader Manish Sharma, Praval Singh from the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vallabh Pandey from Asha, social activists Parmita and Jagruti and Fazlur Rehman Ansari from the Bunkar Sajha Manch.

The activists have resolved to keep live interactions with all sections of Varanasi society open, including among the trading community, minority communities and youth, visit areas, hold meetings and initiate dialogues. There was a strong feeling among senior local activists that given the aggressive hostility shown for such peace assertions from the administration and the government, peace and harmony initiatives should be spearheaded locally. The fact that this issue is being deliberately showcased to dull protests, and people’s anger against the sharp worsening economic situation -- unemployment and price rise -- was also a point of emphasis and discussion that will be taken through dialogues and discussion among the people of Varanasi.

Gyanvapi

Gyanvapi

After the meetings, the activists have decided the following:

1)     To go to communally sensitive neighbourhoods and hold meetings with residents, particularly youth to dissuade them from engaging in violence.

2)     To meet various business owners and traders to devise ways to protect shops and commercial establishments.

3)     To hold daily meetings between 4 P.M and 5 P.M in different spots across the city with local residents to ascertain if they fear any outbreak of violence and discuss measures to counter the same.

4)     To hold meetings with leaders and preachers of all faiths to urge them to inspire their followers to stay calm and not engage in violence.

5)     To not allow any outside elements to take over the peace initiative as many of them are just seen as publicity hungry self-styled activists who are only interested in media coverage.

6)     A delegation of activists is also likely to meet members of the civic administration and police force.

7)     To hold sensitization meetings with local media-persons so that mis-reportage and fake news are prevented from vitiating an already charged atmosphere.

There are also ongoing discussions about holding an interfaith peace march. However, in light of the outbreak of violence in other parts of the country during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, there are fears that such a rally could be infiltrated by miscreants in a bid to discredit the objectives of the organisers. These concerns may also lead the police to not give permission for the march in the first place, and the activists are determined to operate strictly within the purview of the law.

It is noteworthy that for the past several centuries, Varanasi has been home to hundreds of thousands of Muslims, many of whom are engaged in their traditional occupations such as boatmen and weavers. The city, which is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, has a long and rich history of communal harmony and the activists who have been holding meetings to discuss peace initiatives are hoping to find peaceful means to uphold and defend this syncretic culture.

Related:

Shivling ‘found’ on Gyanvapi mosque premises, court orders area sealed

Gyanvapi case: Two more advocate commissioners added to Shringar Gauri survey team

Gyanvapi case: Court to pronounce order in Shringar Gauri temple survey matter today

Gyanvapi case: One out of five withdrawing name from Maa Shringar Gauri temple petition?

Gyanvapi case: Videographic survey of Maa Shringar Gauri temple begins

Gyanvapi case: Allahabad HC stays ASI survey, proceedings before lower court

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court to hear petition to hold prayers in Shringar Gauri temple

 

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