CJP’s Mohalla Committee initiative draws enthusiastic response and support from citizens CJP calls upon the neighbourhood watch to form a robust mechanism to tackle hate

14, May 2022 | CJP Team

In wake of the communal violence unleashed last month, during one of the holiest periods for followers of different faiths, and amidst a plethora of fake news and violence-inducing hateful diatribe, there has been a resurgence of interest in idea of Mohalla Committees. In fact, when Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), whose founders were at the forefront of setting up such committees in wake of communal violence in the 90s, proposed that such Mohalla Committees be establish once again, we received excellent feedback and a huge support from ordinary citizens of different faiths.

Mohalla Committees not only help maintain peace and security in neighbourhoods, thereby often protecting people hailing from marginalised groups and persecuted minorities, they also play a major role in preventing the spread of misinformation. Given the avalanche of divisiveness driven by political forces, these Mohalla Committees offer a counteraction plan driven by local citizens.

Concerns about growing hate crimes against minorities all over the country, the deliberate amplification of fake news and stereotypes had been growing through January and February 2022 following the genocidal calls against India’s Muslims at the so-called DharmSansads and the re-doubled attack on Muslim women and girls through the B**liBai App that surfaced on New Year’s Day 2022.

CJP had intervened at multiple levels on both counts, filing complaints to Director General of Police (DGP), Uttarakhand, and the Commissioner of Mumbai Police, urging them to apply enhanced and more stringent provisions of criminal law against perpetrators named in these in the complaints. We also came out with a public petition urging the majority community to break its silence on hate crimes against minorities.

Through March and April 2022, as Assembly Elections took place in five states and results poured in, the hate-letting spiralled all over the country. Maharashtra remained calm with the New Year, GuddiPadwa processions being greeted with heralded with peace and harmony by all communities on March 2. It was after the countrywide systemic incidents that marred the Ram Navmi, Chaitya Navrartri, and Hanuman Jayanti celebrations, that citizens began to have wider apprehensions about an outbreak of communal violence in Mumbai and Maharashtra.

The fact that several of these incidents and attacks on minority life and property –in the shape of armed and violent processions –took place through the holy month of Ramzan (April 3-May 3, 2022) was not insignificant. In all these places: Khargone in Madhya Pradesh, Khambat and Himmatnagar in Gujarat, Lohardagga in Jharkhand, Howrah and Bankura in West Bengal, Central University of Karnataka in Gulbarga, and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, where several students were injured… the pattern was the same.The clashes erupted as rallies were taken out to mark the festival. One group was accused of instigating the other before violence erupted. Two deaths have been reported, one each from Gujarat and Jharkhand. Some minor incidents were also reported from Mumbai in Maharashtra and Goa.

CJP was among the groups that took an active lead in re-kindling the citizens movement for rejuvenated Mohalla Committees, where representatives of residents from each neighbourhood take the lead in establishing and maintaining contact and communication with local authorities like the police, fire department, municipal authorities, emergency medical services etc. Ideas from Karnataka and Pune inspired collective gestures of solidarity as Iftaars and Inter-Faith Gatherings flowered aplenty across Mumbai.

Efforts of collective citizens expressions of secular co-existence intensified after CJP, supported by members of Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM), organised a citizen’s meeting to tackle the rampant hate amidst Ram Navami celebrations. The meeting on April 16, was attended by close to 90 representatives of community groups, trade unions, feminist groups, minority groups and the original Mohalla Committee Movement trust (MCMT) still active in some parts of the city. IPS officer, Suresh Khopde who had pioneered the original 1988 Bhiwandi Mohalla Committee and ensured, through this collective and organised effort, that the powerloom town north of Mumbai did not break into violence even in 1992-1993,inter-acted with Mumbaikars, and is now working with CJP to re-design a module of a version of the Mohalla / Ekta Committee appropriate for today.

Mumbai Commissioner of Police, Sanjay Pandey, an IPS officer whose sterling role in Dharavi in 1992 had inspired all residents alike also interacted with the group. His message was clear, that the police are public servants meant to preserve peace and protect lives, and citizens are well within their rights to ensure and demand this service.

Be it solidarity inter-faith gatherings, permanent citizens initiatives like Mohalla / Ekta Committees, trainings against fake news and hate on social media or campaigns to promote #EverydayHarmony ,the need to devote some hours everyday, to restoring sanity and empathy was stressed.

Breakthrough steps

The first meeting was held at YMCA, Mumbai Central, where as many as 90 representatives of various rights groups in Mumbai discussed the creation of Mohalla Committees. CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad stressed the need for the groups to work together. Attending Mohalla Committee Trust members talked about how 94 Mohalla Committees were started as citizens’ initiative in 1994 and some of them are active still.

Former DCP Suresh Khopade narrated how he started such groups in 1988 and collaborated with the Bombay Committee at the time. He described Mohalla committee as, “A group of people selected by the police for security, solving various disputes and overall development of mohalla/ward/village.” Shedding light on the origin and functions of a Mohalla Committee,Khopade, who launched this initiative in 1988 in Bhiwandi as an active interface between citizens of different social backgrounds and the police, stressed how he always wanted to address the bitter communal violence in the powerloom town.

Khopade created 75 local committees, each comprising of 50 members of all communities. Such was the impact of these Committees that they even dulled the impact in their area, of communal violence of 1992-93 that engulfed Mumbai. In the city, the committees enabled interaction and sharing of ideas. People understood the importance of this initiative and police officers, including sub-inspectors and inspectors, realised that their work would be very difficult without public support.

It even offered examples such as health camps for basti dwellers and police staff, cricket matches between citizens and police and study rooms in settlements.

Former DCP Suresh Khopade speaks about Mohalla Committees

Eventually, these groups allowed for the better flow of intelligence from people to the authorities. Police officials stood by the people in their demands regarding water and electricity connection issues. To some extent, the Committees also resolved corruption because the ground-level police officers knew the Committee and were hesitant to accept bribes. Essentially, the Mohalla Committees evolved and transferred the power to the powerless.

After hearing Khopade’s account, founder of Parcham, Sabah said it is important to discuss and learn from the challenges faced by the committees in the past to rectify old mistakes. Similarly, TISS professor Brinelle D’Souza said universities should also be involved in such groups. Haider Imam called for police intervention to address this communal divide. Advocate and PUCL member Lara Jaiswani said senior police officials should be involved, while another PUCL member and human rights advocate Mihir Desai stressed the need for Mohalla committees to avoid personnel who encourage the communal divide. Maulana Azad Vichar Manch President Hussain Dalwai spoke about the need for politicians to be included in these Mohalla Committees. Similarly, CPI(M) General Secretary Vivek Monteiro said the Mohalla Committees should also be invested in politics and later promised to bring CPI(M) labourers to the meetings.

Political Science student Danish Lambe emphasised the use of artificial intelligence. He stressed that there is no machinery, but blog writers or content writers could propagate the good ideas. Lambe said that be it US elections or Indian elections, technology was used for campaigning. Talking about data-mining he claimed that people are listening to what individuals are saying.

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Finally, Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey said police officers are a part of society, and therefore, also victims of the communal mindset as well. He said that Mohalla Committees are important, even when there is peace and quiet in society to some extent.

When recommended to give a “communal harmony” training to IPS officers, Pandey asked people to remember the drawback in Indian criminal law. He said that while the Constitution may be created by Ambedkar, the IPC and CrPC sections were made by the colonisers. Sections 151 and others are still British laws meant to keep the independence movement from becoming a reality. Accordingly, he asked that the people demand police services and protection, the way cricket teams raise collective demands as a united front.

More meetings take place

After the first meeting, Setalvad, Dolphy D’Souza of Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS), Ahmed and Bilal Khan of the Kamgar Sanrakshan Samman Sangh (KSSS) met on April 21 to chart out further steps that could be taken to evolve diverse citizens initiatives. “We want to make it clear that we have to work together, amplify efforts, not replace, but instead, strengthen each other’s work,based on our shared experiences. By supporting and re-defining those who are doing such work [of mohalla committees], we should increase their strength,” said Setalvad.

Similarly, Bilal Khan emphasised the need to work with all segments of society especially the unorganised labour in all parts of Mumbai.

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Discussions around some of the non-negotiable principles around which diverse initiatives could be organised have emerged:

  1. Faith in the Indian Constitution and its values of equality, dignity, fraternity and non-discrimination
  2. Peace, Non-Violence (Ahimsa) as guiding principles
  3. Vivadh Nahi Samvaad (Dialogue not Argument)
  4. Anekta/Vividhta (Pluralism/Diversity)
  5. Bhaichara/Bahanchara-Bandutva (Fraternity)
  6. Representation/Recognition/Agency of Marginalised sections.

Intense interactions and trainings with youth groups, trade unions are being now organised throughout Mumbai. Drawing on its experience of three decades in tackling bias, prejudice and hate, CJP is re-working a re-designing several modular interventions.

Shortly after, the Constitution Promotion Committee (Chembur), organised a meeting to talk about how the ruling regime has targeted a particular community and their daily religious practice. People earnestly talked about protecting their areas from communal fire. The older activists and members talked about saving the youth from this discriminatory sentiment.

Here too, Commissioner Pandey joined citizens and assured them of protecting the city’s unity. “Mumbai police is with the common citizens and completely against rioters. I want to completely assure the common people that the general public should not be afraid at all,” he said.

On April 22 meetings continued. With a goal to protect peace, some Muslim members also talked about the role of Muslims and mosques in recent loudspeaker controversy. Hussain Dalwai spoke to 80 trustees of 26 Bandra East mosques and officers of Nirmal Nagar police station. Trustees unanimously resolved to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines regarding loudspeakers. This means not using loudspeakers from 10 P.M to 6 A.M.

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In turn, the senior police officer assured everyone that the personnel will protect people of all religions. Setalvad, attending the meeting, talked about imbibing the values ​​of the Constitution as the answer to the hatred entering the houses through the phone.

“Every single person will leave here and become Maulana Azad and Gandhi and spread the message of stopping riots,” said Dalwai.

Days later,on April 25, CJP met with the Maharashtra App-based Transport Workers Union President Prashant Sawardekar. The union, active in greater Mumbai and Maharashtra, is organising workers of the Ola and Uber cabs, Swiggy and Zomato apps for better working conditions. Setalvad spoke about the importance of union workers participating in not just the Mohalla Committees but in combatting the divisions wrought by the politics of hate.“Unless all sections of the society are involved, it will be as difficult to keep it [the struggle for peace] intense and active,” she said. Prashant Sawardekar, president of the union is clear of the organisations stamp of diversity. Be it gender or community, this union proudly proclaims all kind of Indians in its membership, leadership roles and concerns.

An Iftar party organised by the union on May 1 (Labour Day) for its union members was actively supported by CJP. Sawardekarsaid there are more than 10,000 Ola and Uber drivers in Mumbai, out of which more than 70 percent are Muslim drivers and around 350 drivers are women. Many of these members came to celebrate iftar on Labour Day.Finally, another meeting took place on April 29 with Yuva Manthan, a group that runs awareness campaigns on all issues related to their settlement. More than 30 groups of the organisation work in Mankhurd, Bhiwandi and Govandi for the last four years.

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Members resolved to create videos to tackle the dis/misinformation on social media with examples of Hindu-Muslim love, as well as street plays. Accordingly, CJP promised its support for their initiative and help with regards to their settlement issues. Setalvad stressed that within the minority community settlement, any disputeshould be settled through dialogue for all religions. Active steps to check the spread of rumours and hate-mongering, and a more focused approach for basic amenities, are crucial in these areas.

Mumbai’s enthusiastic answer to the call for harmony

Responding to CJP’s call for active meetings and initiatives to address hate, Mankhurd residents celebrated an Iftar party on April 28. This is the same area that witnessed violence at the hands of Hindutva extremist during Ram Navami.

A youth community pooled together the money to hold the party at the Mankhurd transit camp. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians all came together as a show of secular unity. After the Iftar, people participated in a Sai Bhandara. Organisers also honoured local activists and people who help the needy and fight for the locality’s basic facilities.

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People of all religions sat at one table for Iftar. This event also portrayed the prevalent co-existence of residents who often visit each other’s homes during Ramzan. Moreover, during the April 16 meeting, Commissioner Sanjay Pandey had promised that no violent incident will happen in Mankhurd again. True to his word, the region was heavily patrolled on Thursday night.

“People will succeed in maintaining this peace and unity. But there will be suffering along the way. However, with police patrolling every masjid street yesterday and people celebrating, I felt good,” said activist and violence witness Jameela Begum.

On the next night, the Saint Peter’s Church in Bandra held an interfaith Iftar party. As per the head priest, the goal was to increase mutual harmony and stand with the Muslim community against targeted violence.

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“We are all together, every religion talks about living with peace and brotherhood, we have to trust in humanity and walk with each other, know each other better and share happiness and sorrows together,” said the head priest.

Men and women also recited a special prayer together. Some women offered Namaz together with people of different religions. Many young people also wrote messages of peace to spread the message of brotherhood.

The next day, Joining Dots too organised an interfaith Iftar at Malad.

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Finally on Labour Day, unions oragnised huge secular rallies to assert their solidarity against communal hate. The Samyukt KamgaarShetkari Morcha (SKSM) marched from Kasarvadavli in Thane to Mumbra region in assertion of communal harmony, labour rights and the Constitution. Thousands of people participated on-foot, on motorcycles and similar vehicles.Even children observing Ramzan joined the march in 45-degrees Celsius heat for ‘Hindu-Muslim Ekta’.

Throughout the march, cheers of ‘Allahu Akbar’, ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ wove into each other. The SKSM leaders resolved to always support Muslims for humanitarian causes like CPI(M)’s Brinda Karat did for Jahangirpuri residents during illegal demolitions.

Meanwhile, Mumbai’s Kachra Vahtuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS) observed a secular bike rally from Chembur to Sion Koliwada. Around 400 labourers assembled for the same.

“Considering how the current scenario is changing with this government, we felt the need to take a wholistic approach on this Labour Day. We also inaugurated our new office in Koliwada where members can now go to have their grievances heard,” said KVSS Organiser Anushka Damle.

Spread Harmony not Hate

Anti-hate material

Aside from expansive work on-ground, CJP also worked to create pamphlets that shared strategies on how to create Mohalla Committees, how to tackle Fake News and Hate, how to Capture and Spread instances of #EverydayHarmony.

Further, CJP circulated another pamphlet about how to fight hate. Working on its slogan ‘Hate Hurts, Harmony Works’, CJP in its written material demanded a guarantee of the Indian Constitutional vision, clear in its Preamble.


The way towards this vision is explained in six simple steps: faith in each other, caution against manipulation, trust in the constitution, a calm mind free of fear and anger, local Mohalla Committees, capturing images of everyday harmony.

Particularly the second step is elaborated as an important step to fight propaganda. This step calls for a vigilant scrutiny of the content that appears before a person as well as its source. Further, it encourages a person to tackle any dis/misinformation then and there to keep it from spreading.

“Just stop. Don’t forward it. If it calls for violence or contains violence imagery, don’t share it further. Break the chain. Always be skeptical — don’t share content unless you verify it,” is an important message sent out by CJP.Through all this, CJP aims to express the single idea: Hate can be spotted and it can be stopped.

Here’s how you can help

CJP relies on the ordinary Indian to spot and stop hate. We urge you to go through our various community resources listed below to empower yourself with the correct knowledge to take effective action and bring about a sustainable culture of harmony.

How to be an ally to minorities

Arm yourself with knowledge, not tridents, swords or knives

Understand what constitutes Hate Speech and learn how to act against it

Check out our dedicated Hate Hatao website for more #EverydayHarmony and #HateBuster stories. Follow us on social media and report hate, so we can file necessary complaints with relevant authorities.


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