Paving a path to peace: CJP’s efforts at uniting India Uniting India, CJP’s tireless work on mobilising unions and citizens for peace

24, Apr 2023 | CJP Team

On a warm Wednesday evening, CJP’s team members, including Secretary TeestaSetalvad, attended an interfaith Iftar organised by the MAT (Maharashtra App-Based Transport Workers’ Union) in Mumbai.

The MAT is a workers’ union for persons employed in app-based transport services such as Ola, Uber, etc. The Iftar was premised on the notion of spreading interfaith harmony and a sense of community in members of the union. In that vein, CJP attended the Iftar and gave away their communal harmony stickers and posters at the event, which were enthusiastically received.

Amidst the systematic hate leading to growing anger and despair, it is important to showcase a lived reality of camaraderie, equality and sharing which is the bedrock of the Indian Constitution and secularism. That way we not only hold on to every thread of hope, but effectively project these narratives, lest we lose our will to fight the good fight. As part of our #EverydayHarmony series, CJP brings you instances where Indians share and care, every single day… our food, our businesses, our homes and our friendships. This instances show how we Indians continue to reject hateful and divisive agendas even while street violence and social media are used as part of a sinister, hate-filled political agenda to tell us otherwise. Let’s reinforce India’s everyday lived reality, and through that collectively and aggressively, uphold and defend a unique pluralism, a diverse culture and truly secular values. Donate now to help us combat hate and prejudice!

CJP and MAT at the interfaith Iftar organized on 18th April 2022.

Despite rising violence against Muslims, Ram Navami rampages across India, and hate speech at Akrosh Marches in Maharashtra, the Iftar event was a great success. Hosted on the premises of the Mumbai chapter of Airport Aviation Employees Union (AAEU) and was attended by Nitin Jadhav, All-India joint general secretary of AAEU. Also present was Secretary, CJP, Teesta Setalvad, Prashant Sarwadekar, Secretary, MAT, and Uday Kumar Ambonkar, President, MAT and Committee members of the Union, Javed Pathan and Amjad Khan. Around 200 drivers belonging to various faiths, from far corners of Mumbai, a vast metropolis, joined for a hearty yet simple Iftar organized by the MAT. The Iftar was organised on simple contributions collected from members of the union. Workers from all faiths and backgrounds provided rich ground for an icebreaker and heart-to-heart with colleagues one may not have seen for a long time.

The moment was successful as an opportunity to initiate trust and dialogue between classes, castes, religions, and movements. SabrangIndia reports of a driver, who identified himself as Brahmin, speaking to the team during Iftar. He was a driver for an app-based transportation service and had faced considerable setbacks in the aftermath of COVID-19 and the decreasing monetary value of labour. He narrated that outside of his home, at work, he was a human just like anyone else – his Brahmin-ness and Brahmin status was left back at home, retorting that politics divided people and nothing else. Along with many interesting anecdotes of communal harmony and humanity is one of the two Sikh drivers who travelled a huge distance to join the Iftar. They were especially pleased by the posters and stickers CJP had brought, saying, ‘Such posters are needed to remind people of this unity in the face of manufactured controversies and attempts to disrupt the atmosphere.’ Like the conversations with one of the workers above, these Iftar programmes begun last year in 2022, aim to bridge gaps between communities and come to common ground based on affiliations other than religion. CJP has long held the actionable belief that only with engagement with communities on an everyday and down to earth level, espousing the lived values of the Indian constitution, can there be a solution for communal conflict.

CJP’s meetings with Anganwadi workers, local women, and village youth in UP. The consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown, Hindu-Muslim violence, and peacebuilding measures were discussed.

Citizen’s Mohalla Committees and their outcomes

CJP has time and again worked with local unions and other working groups to facilitate the process of ending hate by organizing and attending meetings, Iftars, and the like. For instance, in the wake of the Ram Navami violence last year major states such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Punjab saw elections, violence during Ramzan, Hanuman Jayanti, and Ram Navami was consciously perpetrated on a large scale, igniting tensions as it spread across various states. It was in this background that, in 2022 CJP mobilised civil society groups to come together and re-focus on Mohalla/Neighbourhood Committees that would help maintain peace and security and remain vigilant against hate. The aims and function of the Mohalla Committees were to create a diverse representative unit of citizens (residents) at the local level that ensure regular interactions with the local police (citizenship policing) to  ensure a more lasting peace and trust, which goes a long way in preventing the escalation and spread of rumours and misinformation.

Following this call by CJP in Mumbai, city-wide meetings and initiatives were kick started to address the problem of hate. The first meeting was held at the YMCA, Mumbai Central, with support from the Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM), which organized citizens’ meetings against rampant violence. More than ninety representatives of various rights-based groups from Mumbai came together to discuss the inception of these Mohalla Committees. Senior members talked about how Mohalla Committees had been initiated in 1994 in the aftermath of the Bombay Riots of 1992.  Members discussed the main non-negotiable principles with which events and further initiatives should be organised, some of these principles were faith in the Indian Constitution and its values, Peace and nonviolence, Dialogue, not argument, pluralism, and representation/agency of the marginalized. CJP especially invited former IPS officer Suresh Khopde, whose pioneering efforts at setting up the Mohalla Committees in Bhiwandi post 1984 communal violence had ensured that, in 1992-1993, when Bombay burned, Bhiwandi maintained its peace.

Following the Mohalla Committees’ planning meetings in various parts of Mumbai, Mankhurd’s residents celebrated an Iftar on April 28 last year. It saw attendance by people of different faiths, ages, and backgrounds. Mankhurd was one of the areas that witnessed violence during Ram Navmi last year. Similarly, many more interfaith gatherings and Iftars were organized in the city to signify peace, solidarity and fraternity.

Summer of 2022 witnessed the need for Mohalla Committees in Purvanchal, Uttar Pradesh too. CJP’s Purvanchal chapter worked tirelessly to prevent communal flare-ups and maintain tolerance and peace. Following the Gyanvapi judgments in 2022, there was a frenzy and atmosphere of fear within the Muslim community, especially in Uttar Pradesh. CJP came together with various groups and citizens of all communities and resolved to ensure that peace and stability were maintained in such an atmosphere. It was decided from these meetings that there was a need for the proliferation of these mohalla groups across regions in the state. After that, multiple citizen’s Mohalla Committees were held, and CJP’s larger network in UP was tapped into. Several incidents that could take a communal hue, later on, were stopped and mitigated before they could flare up, and the committees also helped put rumours to rest. CJP believes Mohalla Committees are an exceptionally effective tool to prevent communal incidents and enmity and function effectively to ensure steady and calm communication without giving into paranoia.

CJP presented stickers and posters representing constitutional values.

Countering hate with actionable ideas

CJP considers it essential that groups of non-denominational backgrounds consistently come together to combat hate and spread a message of peace and harmony. It believes feminist movements, workers’ unions, kisansabhas, etc. possess an inescapable duty and ability to mitigate divisive forces in society. It becomes incumbent upon such communities to take the helm forward. Speaking to SabrangIndia after the Iftar, CJP Secretary TeestaSetalvad, termed these as ‘counter-communities,’ asserting that these ‘counter-communities can serve as a bulwark against divisive politics. We (at CJP) are taking our message of peace to members of these communities and helping them navigate disinformation and hate speech that is flooding the airwaves around us.’ It is important to note that CJP recognises the huge force and power of the right-wing ecosystem of hate and the sway it holds for a large part of India’s population. This recognition stems from the need to do away with this system, one step at a time.

The Hate Hatao campaign cannot exist or deepen without a sustained peacebuilding effort. This is why CJP believes in consistent engagement with various communities, working cultures, and movements to extend solidarity, empathy, and a shared sense of justice. Hence, CJP continues to attend and encourage similar interfaith events, trust-building meetings, and principles of tolerance and harmony. CJP’s efforts at peacebuilding between communities have been relentless and unwavering despite the continuing onslaught of hate and violence India is awash with. It has been a recent occurrence that there have been violent anti-Muslim processions during every festival, such as Ram Navami.

Apart from people’s mobilisations and committees as also working with Unions and Farmers Organisations, CJP’s team has worked with experts to evolve direct communication tools to understand (dissect disinformation, misinformation) and through this informed content, counter hate. Our pamphlets/booklets may be read here. In addition CJP works with creative artists to create images that instil hope and positivity. These are some of them:

At the Iftar event two days ago, CJP presented three such designed stickers and posters at the event. Posters and stickers, particularly on public and private vehicles in India, have been widely known to be indicative of India’s cultures – from its artistic inclinations, folk art, and political and social climate. The back of an auto-rickshaw, long distance inter-state trucks are adorned with funny and creative messaging all of which together reflect India’s diverse languages and culture. CJP worked with these ideas and spaces and together produced at this Iftar, a few such images that have emerged over past months as a means of counter communication. This means of bringing constitutional values in the everyday with art, CJP’s initiative was enthusiastically received by the workers of the MAT union.

The artist who designed these, Smish Designs has this to say for the collaborative effort, ‘‘I believe talking about harmony and peace in this environment is also becoming radical and wanted to contribute to CJP’s cause to confront hate with love and with a sense of brotherhood. I align strongly with the kind of work CJP does, and it was a true honour to create art that reaches people on such a wide level for them.’ Featured in a layout often seen in rickshaws and cabs, there were more such posters in colourful, vibrant designs, depicting interfaith unity and resolutions to be peace bearers, together with CJP’s fight against hate and violence.

On April 23, 2023, at Aluva in Ernakulam district, the same pamphlets (on hate and misinformation) and the sticker “Unity in Diversity” Malayalam were released at a function that inaugurated the State Women’s Conference of the Kerala Gazetted Officers Union (KGOA) at which TeestaSetalvad, Secretary gave the inaugural address.

Mayday Iftar 2022

Caption: Iftar Celebrations with the MAT in 2022.

Similarly, last year on May 1st, 2022, an Iftar was organized by the MAT for its members with support from CJP. Commemorating Labour’s Day as well, hundreds of driver personnel came for the Iftar from all religions, including men and women. Prior to organizing the Iftar, CJP had held meetings with the MAT, emphasizing the importance of the active presence of workers not just in Mohalla Committees but in combating hate.

2022 Iftar with MAT as an effort against rising communal incidents.

CJP Secretary TeestaSetalvad stressed the necessity for unions across India to unite. She spoke on the need to focus on and emphasise identities other than one’s religious identity, such as the identity of a worker, a feminist, or a member of a particular union. In a similar vein at the event, the president of the Maharashtra UPS-based Transport Workers’ Union also resolved to broaden the scope and vision of the union, asserting that the union would now fight for the rights of not just their members but against inflation and for the rights of women as well.

CJP has consistently battled against the rising tides of hate and communalism in India through various innovative means, from their expansive and elaborate Hate Hatao campaign, which includes various initiatives such as Hate Watch, Hate Busters, and the Hate Hatao app to initiatives like mohalla meetings with community organisations and workers’ unions, fighting hate by not just identifying and taking legal action against perpetrators but also creating means to mitigate differences and engender solidarity and unity between communities, each of which has been a tireless but continuous endeavour by CJP. CJP’s on-ground teams have vociferously engaged with groups like ASHA workers, unions of artisans, and labourers and have sensitised countless youths after conducting workshops with them.

CJP constantly keeps a check on hate speech propagated around the country, as well as in South Asia, and continues to initiate legal action against them, along with ground-level mobilisation. Recent examples include some of the following actions taken by CJP. CJP filed a petition in High Court two months ago against anti-Muslim hate speech at Hindutva rallies termed Akrosh Marches in Maharashtra. In addition to these, CJP keeps a keen eye on instances of hate speech, it routinely files complaints against governmental institutions whenever these incidents happen. For instance, CJP filed a complaint in the National Commission for Minorities as well as the Deputy General of Police in Mumbai against KalicharanMaharaj for spewing anti-Muslim and misleading speeches. This ensures institutions are held accountable and ready to respond to public grievances.

Making a comprehensive effort to identify and address the hate spreading like wildfire across the country, CJP has made a map that is updated regularly to map incidents of hate speech, communal and caste-based violence, and lynchings happening across the length and breadth of India.

CJP has also filed writ petitions challenging the existing anti-conversion laws in nine states that are utilised to target minority communities and harass them under the guise of protecting their rights. The Supreme Court has, in response, issued notice to the states of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Karnataka.

News media continues to hold an enormous influence on society. Hence, there is an even more critical need to check the propaganda and hate often sold as news on several primetime news channels. CJP filed a complaint against two News18 programme telecasts. The shows aired in January 2022 made a virulent attempt to pit Hindu voters against Muslim voters and insinuate a grave conspiracy on behalf of the latter against the former. The CJP wrote a complaint to the NBDSA, and in February 2023, received a verdict in which the NBSA declared the programme ‘communally divisive’ and imposed two sets of fines on the network. CJP has also conducted workshops with media students on detecting fake news. CJP strives to make considerable change across India by ensuring institutional means of recourse are ready and available to its citizens and creating an impact by spreading values of fraternity, liberty and equality.


Here’s why CJP is holding interfaith meetings & reviving Mohalla Committees

CJP’s Mohalla Committee initiative draws enthusiastic response and support from citizens

CJP In Action: Huge response to CJP’s NRC meeting in Mumbai. Mohalla Volunteers to be formed.


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