Report On The National Seminar on ‘Fostering Inter-Community Linkages in India’
(28th-30th March, 2003)
Welcome address |Key-note Address|Resolution
This Seminar was a 3-day National Seminar and it was held from 28th to 30th March, 2003 at Hamdard Convention Centre, Hamdard Nagar, New Delhi. The seminar was organized by the Institute of Objective Studies in collaboration with Hamdard University, New Delhi.
The 3-day seminar discussed at length ‘India’s Composite Heritage, Composite Culture, National Integration in the Constitutional Framework, National Identity, and Restoring Inter-Community Linkages: Role of the State, Civil Society, and Media’ in different sessions.
The delegates/contributors and the participants of this seminar were from a wide ranging persons of repute including former Prime Minister of India, former Chief Justice of India, former Union Minister, Educationists, Intellectuals, Journalists, Judges, Advocates, Social activists, Bureaucrats and other Luminaries from different parts of the country. The dignitaries include Prof. Lord Bhiku Parekh from U.K.; Shri I. K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India; Hon’ble Justice Mr. A. M. Ahmadi, former Chief Justice of India; Shri Chaturanan Mishra, former Union Minister and Senior CPI Leader, and Saiyid Hamid, Chancellor of Jamia Hamdard.
Before the start of the Inaugural Session of the National Seminar all the delegates and participants maintained a two-minute silence to mourn the massacre of 24 innocent Kashmiri Pandits at Nandi Marg in the state of J&K.
During the Inaugural Session on March 28, 2003 Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi, in his Welcome Address said “Our Constitution stresses the need for a pluralistic society while providing equal freedom and opportunities to each community—religious, linguistic and regional. But it is painful that the notion of a pluralistic, federal, accommodative and composite National Identity is under assault. As is obvious, in a pluralistic and multi-cultural society like India, national identity can’t be based on a homogeneous national character simply because a homogeneous national character does not exist in India.
He also said, as the Member of British Parliament, Lord Bhiku Parikh once perceptively observed, political or national unity did not require cultural homogeneity and was preserved in climate of flourishing and self-confident cultural diversity. According to him, sadly over the last 54 years, there were too many infractions. Trauma of partition inflicted a blow. Thereafter, the country saw a chain of riots. The latest was the pogrom in Gujarat. According to the data presented in the country’s Parliament, the report of the Home Ministry and Newspaper reports, about 14000 communal incidents/riots have occurred during the period: 1953—2003.
Shri Chaturanan Mishra, former Union Agriculture Minister, in his Inaugural Address, agreed to the opinion expressed by Dr. M. Manzoor Alam in his Welcome Address and said that India is a country of 28 states and 7 Union Territories, 6 major religions, 18 major languages, 1600 minor languages and dialects, 6 main ethnic groups, 52 major tribes, 6400 castes and sub-castes, besides 29 major festivals. Besides, there exist the climatic diversity of a continent and the flora and fauna of two continents, he said. Therefore, there was always a lead to pay a special attention to keep the social fabric united. And in this great task only the symposia and seminars would not be enough. “We will have to come out openly against those forces who are spreading communal venom and counter them effectively and have to go to the masses to awaken them”, he added.
Shri Mishra, who is a prominent leader of Communist Party of India, also said that what rights have been enshrined in the Constitution of India with regard to minorities were comparable to such rights in any country of the world. They were in accord with the UN Charter. He also said that the tragic happenings in Gujarat last year were a blot on the face of our country. He opined that they could not just be termed as “communal riots”. According to him, this incidence was a pogrom.
Mr. Siraj Hussain, Vice-Chancellor, Jamia Hamdard, said that a crucial discussion on such topic was the need of the hour. And this could only be done through social and political mobilization.
Maulana Abdullah Mughaisi, Secretary General of All India Milli Council, averred that the entire humanity was in peril due to various internal and external factors. “Therefore, we the different communities of India should develop such a mechanism by which the gap between different communities is not enhanced and a bond of confidence, trust and mutual cooperation should continue”.
“Every community in India has the right to survive with its separate and independent identity. The principle of pluralism calls for identification and preservation of the values, traditions, and culture of different communities. There should not be dominance of one community over another. At the same time minorities’ rights should also not be suppressed”.
Expressing the above views in his Presidential Address at the Inaugural Session of the National Seminar (28th March, 2003), the former Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Justice Mr. A. M. Ahmadi said that this could be possible only by social and political mobilization and for this we will have to go to the masses and get them awakened.
The eminent jurist said it was ironic that unfortunately some people or groups were of the view that they could achieve their ambitions by the use of might. According to him, this trend was being seen since early 90s. He also said that for a cultural development, the economic & educational development is an essential pre-requisite.
On day second (March 29, 2003) in the first Business Session: India’s Composite Heritage, the former Member of British House of Lords (UK) and presently the Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics, Prof. Lord Bhikhu Parekh, delivering his Key-note Address said “if we are really serious, we should try to make the composite heritage and culture a living reality. For this religious leaders of all the communities would have to come closer and try to raise common platforms and devise common strategies.” Lord Parekh averred that the above steps would help fostering the inter-community linkages in India.
The noted historian, Prof. Bipan Chandra (Chairperson of the 1st Business Session), agreeing with Lord Parekh said that there had been a change with regard to the inter-community linkages in the country after different religious reform movements started in the 19th century. According to him, prior to this period, there was an appreciable communal harmony among different communities. He recalled that no marriage in a state like Punjab could be solemnised without the presence of other religious leaders before the 19th century. “There have been both positive and negative impacts upon this society following the religious reform movements of the 19th century. The positive impact was that there started a discussion on the evils of traditions like sati and caste system. Its negative impact was that some groups began to give a call to go back to the extreme past for the revival of ancient religious traditions, which resulted in the revivalist and extremist movements of the modern time. He further opined that what is lacking now in the sphere of inter-community relations, could be traced back to the 19th century religious reforms and extremist movements.
Further, both Lord Bhikhu Parekh and Prof. Bipan Chandra termed the last year’s Gujarat pogrom as the most unfortunate incident. They were of the view that it did occur due to the indifferent attitude of the state government and administrative bureaucracy. According to them, if the inter-community linkages had been strong, the situation there would not have deteriorated to such an extent.
In the 2nd and 3rd Business Sessions (of 29th March, 2003): India’s Composite Culture, and National Integration in the Constitutional Framework renowned persons participated, while in the 4th and 5th Business Sessions (of 30th March, 2003): India’s National Identity, and Restoring Inter-Community Linkages-- Role of the State, Civil Society, and the Media, noted journalists, bureaucrats and distinguished educationists participated in panel discussion and discussed the subjects at length.
At the conclusion of the 3-day National Seminar on “Fostering Inter-Community Linkages in India” at Hamdard Convention Centre on Sunday (30th March, 2003), Shri I. K. Gujral, former Prime Minister, in his Valedictory Address, called for a war between obscurantism and modernism. Without naming any group or referring to any incident, he said that opposing obscurantism did not mean support to the West. However, his assertion led to a lively debate when IOS Chairman, Dr. M. Manzoor Alam said that there should be balance while linking and delinking the present and the past, otherwise, it might create a lot of problem, particularly in the present context. Then Shri Gujral replied that he had become a perfectionists while expressing his views in the valedictory session and he had nothing in mind with regard to present situation.