Harsh Mander’s Karwan-e-Mohabbat Launched to Counter Hatred of Communal Forces

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Karwan-e-Mohabbat began on September 4 in Nagaon, Assam.

In the course of the journey, the team will highlight the long history of mass targeted violence against vulnerable communities (Muslim, Sikh, Christian, and Dalit) after Independence, with their unmet justice and unhealed wounds, and hence, it included Nellie, Delhi, Kandhamal and Tsundur.

ABDUL BARI MASOUD | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — In a bid to counter the onslaught of fascist forces, noted activist and civil servant Harsh Mander launched a month-long Karawan-e-Mohabbat (Caravan of Love) from Nellie in Assam on September 4.

As lynchings threaten to grow into a national epidemic, the caravan aims to visit families who have lost their loved ones in recent lynchings and respond to the everyday fear of Muslims, Dalits and Christians, and the worrying silences of the majority.

Briefing the media about the Karawan-e-Mohabbat here on Thursday, Karawan members said the major aim of the initiative is to visit families which have suffered from lynch attacks to offer our atonement and solidarity and to constitute an ‘aman (Peace) committee’, with members of Muslim, Dalit and Hindu groups. They underlined the fact that “Indian Muslims are learning to endure an intense sense of foreboding – a lurking, unnamed, unspoken fear. This is not simply the apprehension of discrimination; it is the danger of imminent violence, of being vulnerable to attacks anywhere – on a public road, on a bus or train, in a marketplace, even in their homes. In tribal regions, Christian people feel a mounting dread. Dalits, who have so long lived with everyday violence and humiliation, are fearful of attacks for pursuing their caste vocation of skinning cows.”

The major aim of the initiative is to visit families which have suffered from lynch attacks to offer our atonement and solidarity and to constitute an ‘aman (Peace) committee’, with members of Muslim, Dalit and Hindu groups.

The members told reporters that on the first day of journey in Assam, under the leadership of Harsh Mander, the Karawan-e-Mohabbat had a heart-rending meeting with the families of two cousins Riyaz and Abu Hanif who were lynched in Nagoan. They were both teenagers fishing in a nearby non-Muslim village, where on the basis of a rumour that they were cow thieves, they were lynched to death by a mob, who also badly mutilated their bodies and even their eyes were gouged out. Their parents are still inconsolable that their sons were killed by their neighbours and with such cruelty.

Mrs Narsharan Singh said since this government came to power, more than 139 lynching incidents were reported across the country and these cannot be described as the one-off or stray incidents. “Because of growing culture of impunity, these are being normalized. It has a pattern and attacks are well-planned that need to be brought to light,” she said.

Another member Ovais Sultan warned that the country is moving towards disintegration as was never witnessed earlier even during the partition time. He said the Indian society does not respond to hate-crimes or hate-filled statements as the western societies respond to by coming out on the streets for protest. He referred to the Washington protest demonstration against the statement of President Donald Trump saying whites and blacks, Jews and people from other faiths openly came out in support of Muslims.

“Where is our society is heading? We elected a person whose hands are allegedly soaked in the blood of innocent people to lead the country while in the western nations such leaders are dumped and rejected by the people,” he added.

Another activist Dushyant said the Karawan will assess how the families of lynch victims are coping and what they need for livelihoods and the pursuit of justice. In advance of our visit, a team will visit them and try to constitute an aman committee, with members of Muslim, Dalit and Hindu groups (and Adivasi and Christian where applicable). These aman committees will commit to supporting the family for justice and livelihoods, and promote amity, goodwill, and peace in the larger community,” he said.

In the course of the journey, the team will highlight the long history of mass targeted violence against vulnerable communities (Muslim, Sikh, Christian, and Dalit) after Independence, with their unmet justice and unhealed wounds, and hence, it included Nellie, Delhi, Kandhamal and Tsundur.

According to Harsh Mander, “Nellie was picked to commence the journey because it’s up there in our ugly record of post-Partition massacres; it’s the only time no one was punished or tried for the mass crime.”

The Karawan, which began from Assam on September 4 and will end at Porbandar in Gujarat on October 2, is Mander’s response to the rise in hate crimes across the country against the minorities.

In the first phase the Karawan will cover Assam, Jharkhand and Karnataka, and then it will gather again at Tilak Vihar in Delhi on September 11. In the second phase, all participants will travel together by buses which will go from Delhi to western UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This phase of the Karawan will culminate at Mhow, the birthplace of Dr Ambedkar on September 21. In the third phase, the Karawan will visit Kandhmal and Tsundur and it will conclude in a large program in Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, on his birth anniversary October 2.

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