Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Grass-root suggestions for peace during communal tension

By A Gujarat resident,
Here are a few suggestions that immediately come to my mind.
1. If possible, install CCTV cameras on important religious buildings vulnerable to attacks from miscreants to get evidence of who was involved in the violence and use them evidence for filing criminal cases later.
2. In cases where Hindus and Muslims are living in separate mohallas but adjoining each other, there may be a threat of attack from either side. The best way, I think, is to form a joint team, say consisting of four or six persons, with equal representation of sensible persons from both sides. They should be given the responsibility to keep watch on miscreants from attacking the other community and inform the police immediately. Being locals, they can identify those involved in the violence. In case, the miscreants are from outside the locality, immediate information to the police can lead to their arrest. But the Muslims must take full assurance from the other side as well for their cooperation and may be police could also be involved in forming the joint teams of the two communities. The members of the team should have cell phone/contact numbers of the prominent members of the two communities as also police officials to approach them in case of any untoward incident and seek their help. This is how I was able to keep my mohalla in Vadodara violence-free when a major part of Gujarat was burning in 2002. I had involved even local RSS leaders. The joint Hindu-Muslim team used to sit in the verandah of the local mosque dividing the Hind-Muslim localities. While, three members of the team patrolled the lane dividing the Hindu-Muslim localities, the remaining three stayed at the mosque to keep watch to ensure no one made a mischief of defiling the mosque. The strategy worked.

3. Similar steps can be taken in localities with mixed population of Hindus and Muslims. A joint team of the two communities for patrolling could be formed with assistance of the police who should be informed immediately in case of any incident. We can have more than one team in a mohalla in case it is a big one.
4. In case, any rumour is spread about stockpiling of arms and ammunition in some Muslim buildings/religious places as such stories are fiddled out by the local media everywhere spoiling the peace, a team of Hindu-Muslim along with a senior police official be taken for an inspection of the place to instill sense of confidence in police as well as the local population and win their support. We did this in case of our mohalla mosque as RSS activists had alleged that arms had been stored in its basement. Local police station in-charge was angry with the RSS activists after
inspection when he did not find the basement and `secret' exits as they had told him. Police supported us and in fact, forced the other side to cooperate with us in maintenance of law and order. But while taking the team inside a mosque or a Muslim building, care should be taken not to take many people inside because there can be problem if some unscrupulous elements plant some objectionable material. In my case, I had allowed only one RSS activist, the local police inspector and the Imam of the mosque, besides myself, to inspect the mosque and its premises.
5. Local people should be asked not to assemble in groups at street corners because it can send a wrong message to the other side and they may also assemble in their areas, and many miscreants from both the sides misuse such assemblies to foment trouble.
6. Try not to have police points near the Muslim localities because police points have been many times misused by the miscreants from the other side to attack the Muslims. In fact, unscrupulous elements among the policemen here have been found to become a part of the mob to attack the Muslims. In my mohalla, I got the police point removed immediately. We assured the police chief of the city that we will inform the police control room and the local police station immediately in case any untoward incident takes place.
7. Local Muslim leaders and activists should be in regular touch with secular Hindu leaders and non-government organisation representatives and human rights activists and seek their assistance in ensuring peace.
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