Venue: Bhanja Kala Mandap, Bhubaneswar
The Kandhamal violence has been an eye opener for all of us in Odisha who are working for the cause of an inclusive society with space for dissent, dignity and appreciation for different faiths and beliefs. In this context we face a grave challenge to realize the fact that communalization and polarization has gone beyond the political realm and has penetrated to our very psyche where it is increasingly becoming difficult to think about social harmony in a multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious society like ours.Terrorism in this concern has stereotyped certain community and the role of media and the political leadership has not been very much encouraging. Furthermore emerging paradigms in development process induced by liberalization and globalization has made this process more complex making the oppressed and depressed most vulnerable invading their most intimate spaces. This has not only threatened the very existence of certain communities but also gradually mainstreaming Naxalite and Maoist violence. The saddest part is that our children are growing up in an atmosphere of increasing violence and intolerance which will be seriously impeding the prospect of social harmony in future.
The idea of the National Convention on Peace and Social Harmony in the above backdrop is an attempt to address the issue of peace and harmony in general and the following issues in particular.
- The Implementation of Peace and secular education in School Curriculum.
- The Role of Media in Promotion of non-violence peace & social harmony.
- Religious and Political Leaders in Promoting Peace and Social Harmony.
INAUGURAL SESSION: At the outset Dr. Bhagbanprakash(Chairman, GSSM) Welcomed all the delegated on and off the dais and request His Excellency Hon’ble Governor of Odisha Shri Murlidhar Chandrakanta Bhandare to inaugurate the conference by lighting the lamp and offering floral tribute to the father of the nation. After the inauguration the Chief Guest Hon’ble Governor delivered his speech highlighting the need for a sustained and coherent approach in peace building efforts not only at grass root level but addressing the issue at academic level taking in to consideration the need and necessity of students in schools and colleges in general and universities in particular. His Excellency lauded the effort of Gandhi Shanti Sadbhabana Mancha in this regard in associating school and college children in peace and social harmony cause. He was of the opinion that the Gandhian way of peace and social harmony through “Ahimsa” is the only alternative in the age of nuclear weapon. He condemned communalism and fundamentalism as major causes of social disharmony and tension.
After his inaugural speech His Excellency inaugurated the souvenir of the conference on the theme of peace and social harmony. Prof. M.Q Khan (Working Chairman, GSSM) briefed about the souvenir and the conference in terms of the stupendous effort that was invested in little time to materialize the programme.
Shri Akshya Kumar thereafter briefed about the core objectives of the National Conference on Peace and Social Harmony and shared in nutshell the Peace process after the Kandhamal violence. He also briefed about the future activity plan relating to introduction peace and harmony values in school curriculum.
Addressing the gathering Fr. Pakiam T. Samuel (Secy. Interfaith Coalition for Peace, New Delhi) expressed his deep gratitude over the fact that through this conference people from different faiths and beliefs could sit together and discuss regarding the prospect of peace and social harmony in the present context. He appreciated the effort of the Mancha in bringing together teachers and students under this platform for promoting the cause of peace and social harmony. His assured his solemn support for this cause on behalf of Interfaith Coalition of Peace, New Delhi.
Reiterating his trust for a multi cultural society Dr. Zafar Mahmood(President, Interfaith Coalition for Peace, New Delhi) advocated the essential unity of all faiths and religions. He not only praised the tolerant tradition of our country but also emphasized the need for protecting the cultural and spiritual ethos of a multicultural society that promotes appreciation and acceptance. Quoting from both Hindu and Islam scriptures he sermoned that we the mortal are the one who have the responsibility bestowed by God to protect the universal fellow felling and brotherhood.
Justice Choudhary Pratap K. Mishra highlighted on the policies and functioning of the executive and its impact on peace and social harmony. He stressed the fact that the way political leadership and executive plays its role directly affects the people and decides the nature of social harmony. He also advocated that, due to ignorance, unconsciousness and financial problem general public become unable to achieve justice.
Swami Agnivesh highlighted the fact God is one but we worship Him in different ways and the true spirit of religion is beyond all kind of ritualism. Further each and everybody on earth should be accepted as equal irrespective of religion, gender, race, caste and class, the He condemned all the violence in the name of religion whether the case 1984 Sikh riot, demolition of Babri Masque, Gujurat violence, burning of Grahm stein and his two sons or Kandhmal riot for that matter.
At 10.45 am Mrs. Pravasini sang a “Harmony Song” in Oriya and highlighted essence of non –violence through her song.
At 10.55 am Mr. Moulana Motigunda was invited to the dais. He highlighted some of the lessons from the “Holy Koran” which discuss and prioritizes maintenance peace and social harmony in the society. He also informed that there is no place for riot and violence in the “Koran”.
Thematic Session:- 1 (11.00 Am. to 12.30 Pm.)
(IMPLEMENTATION OF PEACE AND SOCIAL HARMONY VALUES IN SCHOOL CURRICULUM)
Chair: Swami Agnivesh (Eminent Social Activist)
Session Moderator: Prof. M.Q. Khan (Ex- Vice-chancellor Berhampure University)
Dr. Ramji Singh(Former VC. Shantiniketan University)
Rev. Fr. Pakiam T. Samuel(Secy. Interfaith Coalition for Peace)
Rupali Bhanot(Interfaith Coalition for Peace, New Delhi)
Aryabhusan Bharadwaj(Veteran Gandhian Leader & Economist)
Shri Satyajit Mohanty,IPS.(Director Biju Patnaik State Police Academy & IG. Of Police)
Prof. D.K. Samantaraya(Ex. Registrar, Utkal University)
Damayanti Devi(Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial trust , Gouhati)
Shri Aditya Pattanaik(Secy. ACM & Director Mahatma Gandhi Eye Hospital)
The thematic session one started at 11.15am and due to certain urgent engagement the IG of police Mr. Satyajit Mohanty was invited first to share his presentation on the theme. He started his speech with a question i.e., “why violence occurs?” He discussed about the social capital and its importance in the society. He gave an example about his activities when he was in Rourkela police district. He gave an exposure visit to school children (Class-VIII-class-XII) to the police station with a view to aware the student about the police activities and the social values. He told that generally people have lot of misconception regarding police and their activities. Therefore, people are hesitating to go police station and support police. He further told that when those students will come to the mainstream of the society then the social harmony can be maintained in the Rourkela police district. He also presented a documentary film about the exposure visit of the students to the police station and their question to the police. Basically he talked about the increasing pressure that police is facing to deliver and urged public to help police in making them sensitive and approachable to people’s causes and concerns.
At 11.45 am, veteran Sarvodaya leader and the former vice chancellor of Shantiniketan University delivered on the vexed theme. He advocated that education is the last hope of the humanity. Education can play an important role in the preventing riots. For peace and social harmony education has been getting prime importance from the time immemorial. He further told that due to structural inconsistencies education system in India it is unable to tackle and prevent the social disharmony. He further defined education as means of knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, the education system demands some changes which can give moral values to the students. Then he tried to define religion in terms of universal ethics, love and truth. He further recommended that like scout and NCC there should be a Shanti (Peace) brigade in each and every school.
After that, at 12.10 pm, Mrs Rupali Bhanot(ICP, New Delhi) was invited to the dais. She started her speech from the meaning of teacher and teachership. She highlighted the meaning of peace. She further stated that if social value will be in the syllabus but the moral value will not develop then teaching social values in schools will be valueless. Therefore, parents and teachers should take the role and responsibility to develop and practice moral values among themselves. She further shared that practice of ethics is needed and it should be continuous process. Then she told that Sramadan (Physical labour) and family values are the best way of practicing ethics.
At 12.30pm Mr. D. K. Samatray was invited to the dais. He highlighted on two things; one is building personality and character and second is teaching the child the way she/he wants to grow. Then he emphasizes on the value base education.
Dr. Aryabhusan Bharadwaj delivered his speech from the popular couplet “health is wealth”. He told that if health will not be good then how mind can not be healthy. If mind will not be healthy and therefore one cannot be in peace. Material things are not enough for the peace; mind should be regulated for mental stability. Attitude should be driven towards peace. Peace should come from inside not from outside.
Miss Damayanti Devi highlighted about the problem alcoholism and its contribution to social disharmony and unrest. how Govt. encourage for it. She told that substance is another major factor for the violence. Now there is license for the opening the liquor shops in the side of road. She also criticized the activities of the government. Selling alcohol in one hand and constructing school in other hand is a really pathetic situation of the country.
At 1.10 pm, Mr. Pattanaik was invited for the speech. He started his speech from defining attitude. He told that people should do what they say. People are telling something but they are doing different which is creating social disharmony. He gave some reason for disharmony. He further told that people those suppose to keep harmony in the society they have forgotten their roles and responsibilities. He was of the view that Kandhamal issue arose because of disparity, inequality and poverty not because of communalism.
At the end of the session Mr. Prasant Sahoo gave the vote of thanks and Shri Madhusudan Das song enthralled the audience by singing “jai Jagat” song.
Thematic Session : 2 (12.45pm. to 2pm.) (THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN PROMOTION OF PEACE AND SOCIAL HARMONY)
Chair: Shri Ravi Das( Senior journalist, Editor, Ama Rajdhani)
Session Moderator: Shri Soumya Ranjan Pattanaik (Editor, The Sambad)
Dr. Zafar Mahmood(President, Interfaith Coalition for Peace)
Shri Prafulla Das(Senior journalist, The Hindu)Senior Journalist Mr. Prafulla Dash(The Hindu) started his speech with starting from Kandhamal issue. He shared his concern regarding the quality of coverage that news paper in vernacular language gave to the Kandhamal violence. He emphasized on the changing attitude of the reporters. Therefore, he told that media should criticize themselves to maintain their dignity and credibility. As to him reporters don’t go to the risk area like communal violence, Maoist violence etc. therefore, they become unable to bring the truth in front of the public.
Then 2.05 pm Editor Mr. Soumya Ranjan Pattanaik (Editor, The Sambad) made his deliberation on the role of media in keeping peace and harmony in the society. He highlighted that media should be independent, he also shared the reasons for failure of media to be independent in the face of huge competition among media houses in terms of business. He further highlighted that media is compelled to support one side but they should be open in nature that they are supporting a set of group or set of people but the social harmony and peace of the society should not be compromised.
Summarizing the session Mr. Soumya Ranjan Pattanaik concluded that the basic principle of media should not be violated. He was of the view that the media should not forget that their each and every activity is to help the poorest of the poor. Media need to be criticized and they accountable to the people for each act of their omission and commission. Vibrant public opinion can help the media in functioning in a better way and making the prospect of peace and harmony in the society.
Thematic Session: 3 (2.45 Pm. to 4.20 Pm.)
(ROLE OF RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL LEADERS IN PROMOTING PEACE AND SOCIAL HARMONY)
Chair: Dr. Syed Jafar Mahmood (President, Interfaith Coalition for Peace)
Session Moderator: Shri Sandeep Pandey (Convener NAPM, Ramon Magasayse Awardee)
Swami Agnivesh(Eminent Social Activist)
Prof. Jagmohan Singh(President, Third Freedom Movement)
Prof. Dr. M.D. Thomas(Editor, Fellowship)
Feroz Mithiborwala(Ex- Convener Yuva Bharat)
Dr Banawarilal Sharma
Prof. Ram puniyani
Swami Agnivesh began the session by defining religion in a broader perspective. He told that religion means truth and truth is God, love is God and justice is God. He further advocated that people should have helping desire for the distressed with a selfless interest. And this is the true essence of religion. In this regard there is no difference whatsoever among all the organized region of the world. He further told that freedom is religion (freedom of religion) and people should feel free to accept any religion. He gave the example of Dr. Graham Stein’s wife: how she had forgiven the killer of her husband and two sons. He told that humanity should be of beyond religion and spirituality.
Prof. M. D. Thomas highlighted that opportunistic use religious and politics bring disharmony in the society and how a person losses the freedom by adhering to the false notion propagated by so-called religious and political leaders. The politicians and religious leaders has been mostly the cause for violence not social harmony. They are aggravating the situations for their self interest. He further spoke that a good person leads life peacefully and let other to lead life. Therefore he suggested that its our moral responsibility to take care of the growing need for social cohesion and harmony.
Dr.Jagmohan Singh highlighted the importance of Padayatra of Mahatma Gandhi for freedom. He told that people will be truly aware about their duties “Sadvabana” will built among the people. He told that due to privatization of land during the time of East India Company, the problem poverty became more prominent in the country and a large mass became fall into the poverty. During his speech he also highlighted that at the time of British rule who were really working for freedom they are nowhere in the politics. Therefore, the political system is so corrupted. He suggested that youth should come forward with good moral values and should participate in politics. As per him people consciousness is the prime weapon to bring peace.
At 4.10 pm, Professor Ram Punyani was invited to the dais and gave his speech. He was of the view that violence which is taking place in the name of religion has absolutely no relation with religion. He further emphasized that religion is morality and identity. Every religion has a greater role in building cultural identity of the country and moral values among the people.
At 4.30 pm, Dr. Zafar Mahmood was invited to the dais. He highlighted that the institutional practices are much more important than philosophy. Therefore all institutions which are basically religious in nature have an added responsibility to practice and propagate religiosity rather than organized region. He further told that everyone should have the right to religion and should never be abstain from it. Its part of a vibrant democratic process and a matter of self respect that there is freedom of religion in true sense .
Then, at 4.40 pm, Mr. Feroz Mithiborwala came to dais and put forth his views. He highlighted that politics of terror replaced the politics of communal violence. He criticized the liberalaisation, privatization and globalization as processes associated with international capitalism which has created lot of disharmony in the present society, especially with the marginalized and minority communities. Highlighting the theory of Clashes of civilization he argued that the present international terrorism is conspiracy against particular community creating polarization and stereotype. He further told that there is no word like international terror and was of the view that the Islamic phobia is breaking the unity of the nation. In the light of 26/11 terror attack in India he warned that the popular perception about terrorism need to be thoroughly contested in the light of new conspiracy theory.
At 5.00 pm, Dr. Banwarilal Ram Sharma gave his speech. He highlighted the human value and dignity. He further emphasized that if someone have freedom for all why not freedom for region and told that religion is not at crisis, people are in the crisis. He also advocated about the basic issues like poverty and underdevelopment as the simmering causes of social disharmony and conflict. Then he emphasized about the social disintegration and its causes and consequences.
Concluding Session: 4.30Pm. to 6 Pm. (STRATEGY AND ACTION PLAN)
Chair: Sandeep Pandey( Convener NAPM, Ramon Magasayse Awardee)
Session Moderator: Dr. Bhagbanprakash( Chairman, Gandhi Shanti Sadbhabana Mancha)
Manas Ranjan(Action Aid)
Ananta Charan Sahoo(Advisor, All Utkal Primary Teachers Federation)
Er. Dayanidhi Sahoo( Senior Social Activist)
Ranadhish Choudhary(Secy. We- The Forum for Human Unity)
Akshya Kumar(Convener, Gandhi Shanti Sadbhabana Mancha)
After that the three thematic sessions were completed and the concluding session started at 5.30 pm on strategy and action plan Mr. Manas Ranjan gave the brief summary about whole three thematic sessions. He primarily focused upon the growing saffronaisation of education in the country in general and odisha in particular. Highlighting the need for secular education and appreciation for different faiths and beliefs he stressed the importance of efforts like this conference to come out with something concrete that would contribute towards peace education in Odisha.
At 5.15pm Dr. Bhagaban Prakash came to the dais and highlighted about learning i.e., learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. Then he brought a comparison among the religious school and govt. school with relation to peace and social harmony. As per his view education is an alternative to media. He was of the opinion that religion should be free from rituals and fundamentalism. After that he told that the whole session will be discussed on Strategic planning, strategy implementation and strategy assessment of the gaps.
At 5.45 pm Mr. Anata Charan Sahu came to the dais and told that teacher from each level should unite and aware students in the line of multiculturalism and appreciation of faiths and beliefs so that future will invite peace and social harmony. He also advocated that the teachers should be the torch bearers and should give moral values in the school by practicing first.
At 6.00 pm Dr. Nivedita Mohanty was invited to the dais and she emphasized on the power of love. She told that if society is running that because of power of love and its should be the effort of all to inculcate the values of love and fellow felling among our students.
At 6.00 pm Mr. Santosh Sahu came to the dais and told that Kandhamal issue occurred because of family disharmony, school disharmony, village disharmony and societal disharmony. The moral value of great man could not reach the student. He suggested that building ethical values among the student should be the prime strategy to bring social harmony and peace in the society.
After that at 6.20 pm Mr. Choudhary was invited to the dais and he highlighted that India is famous for its unity in diversity. Vested political and religion interests are the prime reason for the violence, which need to be addressed. He emphasized on the people right and told that each and every human is born free and has the right to be equal. So the basic entitlements should be fulfilled which will promote the basic issues of unrest among the most marginalized people.
After that Engineer Mr. Dayanidhi Sahu emphasized that there are four factors for the violence which are disturbance, imbalance, prejudice and policy paradigm shift. He suggested that social harmony should be based on Gandhian values and Socio-economic justice. Education in this regard is instrumental for such a change.Education therefore should mean integrated development of body, mind and soul. An uniform curriculum in school would go a long way in this concerned.
The session ended with a brief reflection by Akshya Kumar on the national conference on peace and social harmony. He also gave an outline of the plans and programmes of the follow up action planned in the coming days.
The formal programme came to end with summarizing and vote of thanks by Dr. Bhagbanprakash.