Report of the First Session Mumbai ToT in Mumbai on 15th and 16th October 2011
The Mumbai ToT is an outcome of the meeting of the Mumbai All India Secular Forum meeting that took place in July 2011. One of the suggested plans of action was creating a cadre of peace activists in Mumbai who can engage in the peace activities in the city. The organizations involved were IPSCR, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and YUVA. The three organizations collectively decided to organize the ToT. After a couple of rounds of consultation and continuous coordination, the framework and nature of the workshop was developed. BMMA and YUVA were to identity participants from their communities. The topics to be covered though focusing on communalism could evolve from the needs and understanding of the participants than being pre determined. The venue for the first workshop was fixed to be CSSS office in santracruz.
Profile of the participants:
The participants consisted of approximately 10 women and two men. Most of the women participants were above 35 years of age. One woman participant was of the age of 16 years. The male participants were under the age of 25 years. The participants were all associated with BMMA. The younger participants are studying and working. The rest of the women participants are also activists from BMMA working on Muslim women’s issues.
The methodology decided was participatory. Interaction and discussions were encouraged. The quintessential component of the training would be to make reading an integral part of activism. Thus participants will have to borrow books every week and read the same. Games like sharing what one learnt with their partners and the partners repeating the same was used to make the sessions more interactive. The future methodology will be usage of case studies, films, videos and discussions. It will also involve some practical or skill based training where the participants may be taken to communities and given some tasks to execute.
The sessions on the first day were truncated due to poor attendance. On 15th morning, Dr Engineer spoke on religion and culture. He explained with ample examples how religion is being exploited and distorted to gain political power. The moral values of religion, which are common to all religions, are not highlighted but masses are mobilized and polarized by pitting one religion against another. Religion in real teaches the same moral values of love, compassion, respect and truth. Political parties have always used religion to divide communities in spite of the common shared heritage India has. After this session in the morning, the participants were made to choose books and magazines of their choice to take home and read. The participants excitedly went through the available readings and chose some books of their interest related to communalism. The rest of the afternoon was allotted for reading.
The next day, Dr. Ram Puniyani introduced the participants to communal politics in India. With lucid and interesting examples like destruction of Somnath Temple, he illustrated how Islam is demonized through selective and distorted history by portraying Muslim leaders to be brutal and cruel. This distortion of history is part of the larger agenda of imposing a particular ideology i.e. Hindutva where organizations like RSS propagate hierarchies and superiority of one religion over other. He explained that caste and gender are also hierarchies based on exclusion and discrimination. Communalism as an ideology further strengthens these hierarchies and supplements them.
Chanrakant Puri from SNDT College explained that caste is discriminatory in nature. He gave examples to explain this: like the proportion of Dalits in state employment like class I officers which is not proportionate to their population. Along with employment or livelihood, education and political power are also areas of conflicts. He cited examples of adivasis and suggested that their exclusion must be studies to understand discrimination. Though there are acts like the Atrocities act against SC/ST, there is poor conviction rate which is a gross violation of human rights. The Pardhi community is still stigmatized as a ‘criminal’ community. Lastly, he pointed out to the oppression of women who are the worst victims of caste system. The prevalence of Devdasi practice where Dalit women are considered as public property for the sexual gratification of all men is an indicator towards the same.
The next session will be held on 30th October 2011 at BMMA office on communalism and gender.
Reading material and other learning aids like films, case studies etc is to be identified for the rest of the training.