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21 Sep, 2013

Tri-cultural Indian leaders say development impossible without communal harmony

New Delhi, 20 Sept 2013 – India’s top leadership is a unique blend of cultures. Its President Pranab Mukherjee is a Hindu, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is a Sikh and Vice President Prof M. Hamid Ansari is a Muslim. This tri-colour of cultures is also reflected in the Indian flag. No wonders that all three spoke at the ceremony organised here today for presentation of the National Communal Harmony Award 2011 & 2012. The awards were presented to Mr Khamliana, 56, the Founder President of Mizoram Youth Club and Mohammed Abdul Bari, 72, from district Bhadrak of Odisha in the individual category, and the Foundation for Amity & National Solidarity (FANS), a Delhi based Trust which works for spreading amity and communal harmony.

In their speeches (see full texts below), all three Indian leaders reminded the people of India of their rich heritage, the fact that no religion teaches violence and that Indian society is rooted in plurality and diversity. In spite of that, communal conflicts and tensions continue to exist.

Said Prof Ansari, “I submit for the consideration of fellow citizens that there is an imperative need to revisit the methodology by which we seek to promote societal harmony. Absence of harmony results in discord; discord disturbs social peace; absence of social peace impedes progress and development. Could there be a greater social sin? Should it not be placed high on the list of anti-national activities?”

About the awards

The National Foundation for Communal Harmony was established as an autonomous organization by the Government of India in 1992 to promote communal harmony and strengthen national integration by undertaking and encouraging activities which promote belief in the principle of non-violence and deepen the bonds of unity and amity amongst the diverse segments of our society. The Foundation provides assistance for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of child victims of communal, caste, ethnic or terrorist violence with special emphasis on their care, education and training to enable them to merge in the mainstream of the nation and become responsible and productive citizens of the country. To achieve these goals, the Foundation organizes a variety of programmes, either independently or in association with State Governments / Union Territories, educational institutions, civil society groups and NGOs.

The National Foundation for Communal Harmony Awards are conferred annually, one to an individual and the other to an organization. The Awardees are selected from a long list by an eminent Jury headed by the Vice-President of India. The Awards consist of a citation each and cash amount of Rs.2 lakhs for an Individual and Rs.5 lakhs for an Organization. In exceptional and deserving cases, more than one Award winner can be selected in a given year. The Award has been conferred to 11 Individuals and 10 Organizations so far.

Details of the award winners

Shri Khamliana, aged 56, is the Founder President of Mizoram Youth Club which was established in 1990. The Club is a well known voluntary organization rendering social service and strengthening national integration in Mizoram. Shri Khamliana is fully committed and dedicated to promote peace, communal harmony and national integration in the state. He organized musical concerts, essay competition and cultural exchange programmes, most of these under the banner of his organisation Mizoram Youth Club to promote unity and peaceful co-existence among diverse ethnic groups. He played an active part in organising a social function in 2000 in Army campus to build up a civilian-military relation in the state and received appreciation. He actively participated and organized national integration camps by affiliating with the Nehru Yuva Kendra. It is because of the efficient leadership, keen interest and efforts of Shri Khamliana that the Mizoram Youth Club has significantly contributed to promote peace and national integration.

Shri Md. Abdul Bari, aged 72 from district Bhadrak of Odisha, is a well-respected people’s leader and social activist. He is associated with at least eight social organisations and has selflessly helped the police and local administration from time to time to maintain peace and communal harmony. Shri Bari reportedly played significant role in restoring peace and communal harmony at Bhadrak after the communal riots at Bhadrak (1991) and at the times of Babri Masjid demolition (1992), serial blasts at Mumbai (1993), burning of Sabarmati Express at Godhra (2002) and after the inhuman killing of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati at Kandhamal district (2008). Recently in 2011, he helped in nipping in bud the communally violent situations at Bhadrak town on the occasions of Id-Miladun-Nabi and Ram Navami festivals. He received Utkal Diwas Award (2002) by Bhadrak Rotary Club, Muralidhar Shruti Sanshada, Bhadrak Award (2005) and many other commendation certificates. For more than two decades, Shri Abdul Bari has significantly contributed to maintain peace and communal harmony in district Bhadrak and its nearby places in Odisha.

Formed in 1984, the Foundation for Amity & National Solidarity (FANS) is a Delhi based Trust which works for spreading amity and communal harmony. It has organized numerous seminars, workshops, symposiums, inter-religious meets, youth camps, sadbhavana sabhas and rallies to promote social amity. The Foundation has instituted ‘National Amity Award’, which is given every year to an eminent personality. A serial ‘Yeh Gulistan Hamara’ produced by the Foundation on national integration was telecast on Doordarshan. It has awarded numerous scholarships under its Amity Scholarship Scheme to promote education amongst the economically backward students. It has extensively contributed for promoting solidarity and communal harmony.

Following are the full texts of the Indian leaders’ speeches.

President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee

1. At the very outset, I would like to congratulate Shri Khamliana and Shri Mohammad Abdul Bari and the Foundation for Amity and Solidarity, New Delhi. The National Communal Harmony Awards conferred on them today are a recognition of their outstanding efforts in promoting communal harmony in our country and in strengthening national integration within its diverse peoples.

2. Ladies and gentlemen, harmony and tolerance are at the very foundation of the Indian ethos, our tradition and our history. In the Rig Veda itself, it has been so simply yet profoundly enunciated that “The truth is One, the wise call it by different names” – “Ekam Sat, Vipraha Bahuda Vadanti”. It is due to this legacy, that India embraced and assimilated, as her own, the various religions, reform movements and waves of renaissance that have swept our consciousness over the centuries.

3. So dear were these ideals to our Founding Fathers that when they framed our Constitution, they drafted a specific provision in this regard. Thus, our Constitution lays down the fundamental duty of every citizen to “promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities”.

4. However, despite this sacred mandate, despite the Directive Principles of State Policy and despite the safeguards that our laws provide, despite all the measures taken by our Administrative machinery, why is it that communalism does not seem to go away from our society? Why is it that we do not learn the lessons from our own history but keep repeating the same tragic mistakes?

5. None of our institutions preaches hatred. No religion preaches discord. On the contrary, they prescribe that it is the moral duty of every individual and of society as a whole, to spread peace and amity. What can we do to uphold and implement this? How can we be more vigilant against negative forces and successfully thwart their nefarious designs?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

6. The strength and resilience of Indian society lies in its plurality and diversity. This unique quality has not been imported from anywhere nor has it come into our society by accident – rather it has been consciously nurtured and nourished by the tolerance and wisdom of the Indian consciousness. These principles are at the very foundation of our secular fabric. And, although maintenance of social peace and harmony is a function of Government, this responsibility cannot be delinked from the duties of each and every individual citizen.

7. The distinguished awardees who we felicitate today should be emulated. We should strive to complement their achievements with our own individual and collective efforts. Each one of us must think of our own personal contribution to peace, harmony, amity and accord in our respective spheres of activities.

8. Dialogue never fails to create a confluence of the streams of diverse thought, opinion and aspirations. It coalesces and synthesizes the currents of vibrant cultures, religions and civilizations. It is, therefore, important to recognize and salute those among us who promote these methods and fight with courage against the forces of obscurantism, extremism and militarism.

9. Eternal vigilance is a shield against those who harm the unity of our country. We must heed the words of the Father of our Nation who was pained by communal strife and observed “the lawlessness of communalism is a monster with many faces: it hurts all in the end, including those who are primarily responsible for it”.

10. These values must be inculcated from a very young age. Gandhiji firmly believed that the key to the solution of the communal tangle lies in everyone following the best in his own religion and entertaining equal regard for the other religions and their followers.

11. I commend the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Foundation for Communal Harmony for instituting these awards.

12. Once again, I extend to the award winners and also to all individuals and institutions in the different parts of India engaged in building communal harmony, my heartiest appreciation and good wishes for the success of their work. To them I say, God be with you.

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh

“We have gathered here today to honour two outstanding individuals and an outstanding organization for their contribution to the cause of communal harmony and national integration. Let me begin by congratulating Shri Khamliana, Shri Md. Abdul Bari and The Foundation for Amity and National Solidarity for receiving the National Communal Harmony Award.

We meet today in the backdrop of heightened communal tensions in some parts of our country. These are very sad developments which should make us all reflect on our individual and collective obligations to promote goodwill and amity in our polity and society.

We belong to a country which is characterised by great diversity. It is also a country with a very proud legacy of tolerance and respect for ways of thinking other than one’s own. India is a land where diverse religions have flourished together for centuries and have enriched each other. We as a people have an overall secular outlook and I believe that it is only a very small group of people that is responsible for creating divisions amongst us. I also believe that it is the solemn duty of each one of us to resist these forces.

Let me take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the Central Government to make every possible effort to promote communal harmony and national integration in our country. We have called a meeting of the National Integration Council on 23 September to explore ways and means for achieving these ends.

The two individuals whom we are honouring today have done exemplary work which makes all of us proud. Shri Khamliana’s contribution to strengthening cohesiveness and goodwill in our society covers a diverse range of areas- rehabilitation of drug addicts, prevention of AIDS, cultural exchange programmes to promote national integration and unity, resource mobilization for orphanages and rescue homes and so on. He and his organization Mizoram Youth Club are shining examples of committed service to the society and their extraordinary leadership inspires all of us.

Shri Mohammad Abdul Bari’s career is another example of selfless service to the people. He has worked to successfully prevent potential disturbances in his district Bhadrak and to contain them when they had occurred. His contribution covers other areas also including blood donation activities, education and health. Shri Bari commands the respect of both Hindus and Muslims for his leadership and social activism.

The Foundation for Amity and National Solidarity has now worked for 28 years for promoting communal harmony and national integration. It achieves these objectives through a variety of activities and the involvement of the youth and students. Its activities also include the dissemination of the message of peace, harmony and amity through the print and electronic media. The Foundation has done admirable work and truly deserves this award.

Let me end by also commending the work of the National Foundation for Communal Harmony which has instituted these awards. I believe that it has truly achieved the objectives with which it was set up by the Government of India in 1992.

It gives me happiness that through today’s awards we have been able to know about the work of Shri Khamliana, Shri Bari and The Foundation for Amity and National Solidarity. We need more individuals and organizations like them. I once again congratulate them and wish them all success in the future. ”

Vice President Prof Hamid Ansari

“I am happy to be here today to join Rashtrapati ji and Pradhan Mantri ji on this important national occasion. I congratulate the award winners. Their grit and determination in promoting the noble ideal of communal harmony is commendable.

The National Foundation for Communal Harmony was set up in the dark days of 1992 to promote some essential ingredients of our philosophy of governance. Two decades later it is time to assess its work and to see if correctives are called for. In a mature society, both exercises have to be undertaken candidly.

The Background Paper lists six criteria for the awards. The first of these is critical in itself and for the success of the other five. It is “for discouraging communal ill-will and regional animosities and weaning the misguided elements of society from the path of violence.” The wording is significant. The focus is on “discouraging” and “weaning” rather than on prohibition and eradication. If such a mindset were to be used in the health sector, the health profile of the patient would look dismal.

The harsh reality is that both communal ill-will and regional animosities are diseases of the mind. They operate at the individual and the communitarian levels. They have seeped into the interstices of our society, to erupt periodically while remaining dormant at other times. Often sections of citizen body are motivated by nefarious considerations, driven by paranoia, and an imagined otherness about other sections. Our faith is fragile; a dichotomy in approach is evident:

Jahan paigham-e-ulfat hum sunakar raqs karte hain

Waheen nafrat ke toofani samundar raqs karte hain

As citizens of India, each one of us has the right to life, to equality, to equal protection of law and to equal share in the largesse of the state as per objective norms. The Constitution enjoins us to secure fraternity. We seem to fail in this. The failure is at every level – governments, civil society, individuals.

I submit for the consideration of fellow citizens that there is an imperative need to revisit the methodology by which we seek to promote societal harmony. Absence of harmony results in discord; discord disturbs social peace; absence of social peace impedes progress and development. Could there be a greater social sin? Should it not be placed high on the list of anti-national activities?

I thank Sushilkumar Shinde ji for inviting me today.

Jai Hind.

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