Encouraging Communal Harmony in India
In February 2002, at least 1,044 (perhaps more than 2,750) people were killed in three days of Hindu-Muslim violence in the city of Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat. Most of the victims were Muslim, with particular brutality directed toward children and women, and with most of the perpetrators stirred by a rising tide of Hindu fundamentalism. While communal violence had plagued this city in the past, the killing had never been on this scale, nor had relationships between the two communities been so strained.
Karuna Center worked with Hindu and Muslim NGO leaders in Ahmedabad to develop bi-communal programs in their communities in the aftermath of this violence.
In 2005 Karuna Center partnered with World Vision to offer three seminars in dialogue for mutual understanding for Hindu and Muslim NGO leaders in Ahmedabad. Our participants greatly valued the opportunity to speak deeply about the effects of the 2002 riots. Most reported few forums for open discussion and increasing concern that the two communities were moving further and further apart, as traditional business relations were ending and mixed residential areas fast disappearing. Recognizing that repairing social relations will be a slow process, Karuna Center worked on developing a longer-term program with our partners that would add an emphasis on reconciliation in all their poverty-alleviation and development programs.
Our “training of trainers” session was also open to World Vision staff from other Indian states that are coping with violence perpetrated by the Naxalites, a Maoist insurgency operating in the poorest regions of rural India. They developed their own context-specific approaches for bringing seeds of communal harmony to their regions.
Peacebuilding in Northeast India
In 2005, Karuna Center also held a conflict transformation seminar for World Vision staff in Northeast India, a remote but strategically significant area inhabited by numerous ethnic and tribal groups, who have been engaged in long-standing violent conflicts with each other and the national government of India. Tensions have intensified with an influx of Bangladeshi and Nepali migrants to a region already beset by deep poverty, scarce resources, and feelings of isolation and mistreatment from the central government. Program participants represented a number of tribal and language groups and shared a common commitment to work for the welfare of the poor. They appreciated the opportunity to examine the effects of ongoing conflict on their communities and to create more conflict-sensitive development programs, which World Vision regional directors will support and monitor.
India Report - December 2005