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Gujarat rights activist for Dr L M Singhvi Lecture on Pluralism
Shyam Bhatia in London | November 21, 2003 20:47 IST
Last Updated: November 22, 2003 02:35 IST
Father Cedric Prakash who has been invited to lecture at Leicester University can help iron out ties between Gujarati Hindus and Muslims in the city, says leading academic Professor Richard Bonney.
Fr Prakash has been invited by Bonney to deliver the seventh Dr L M Singhvi lecture on pluralism, which is organised by the university's Centre for History of Religious and Political Pluralism.
Fr Prakash's topic Challenges to Pluralism: A perspective from Gujarat is seen as a timely contribution to the ongoing debate about communal violence in the state and ways to prevent it recurring.
His visit is also being seen as a way of pouring oil over troubled waters in Leicester where post-Godhra tensions have manifested themselves among Hindus and Muslims originating from Gujarat.
"We have a large Gujarati community in Leicster -- 41,000 Hindus and 31,000 Muslims -- and relations between the communities have been damaged," Bonney explained.
"We stand for community harmony and religious and political pluralism. We cannot bury what happened, but we must learn the lessons and move forward," he said.
Bonney explained that Fr Prakash came to the notice of university academics after he published an article earlier this year in the Catholic weekly The Tablet where he talked about what was going on in Gujarat.
"He has been active in the campaign for judicial redress for those who suffered in the violence and he has campaigned on the issue of the religious law, which obstructs conversion in certain circumstances," Bonney said.
Bonney drew attention to the Kabir Puraskar given to Fr Prakash by the President of India for the promotion of communal peace and harmony.
In 1996 he also received the Nagrikta Puraskar for his contribution to the city of Ahmedabad and very recently, in June 2003, the Indian Muslim Council (USA) presented him with the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai award for humanitarian work.
In June 2002 he was invited to testify before the US Commission for International Religious Freedom in Washington.
'Genocide is never an internal matter, and the world's hesitation may yet prove fatal. People must realise that Gujarat is a laboratory of Hindutva. What happens there will be applied wherever in India the BJP believes it can 'cleanse' society of Muslims and Christians. Hindus make up 82 per cent of India's population, but its Muslims -- the largest [Muslim] population in the world after Indonesia -- are in their millions. If the Gujarat experiment in ethnic cleansing is allowed to succeed, there will be genocide to come. The Gandhi ashram, and the river of ahimsa, are in peril as never before.'
"Cedric Prakash is one of the leading defenders of human rights and the campaign for legal redress for victims of communal violence in India," Boney said.
"It is important that a city such as Leicester, with its significant South Asian population and which prides itself on its inter-community harmony, becomes aware of some of the things, which have gone wrong elsewhere in the world. It is particularly unfortunate, given the size of the Gujarati Hindu and Muslim community that it should have been in the state of Gujarat that the threat to the Muslim and Christian populations has been greatest. Denial serves no purpose. What we have to do is to understand what has happened and learn the lessons of this experience for the future. The lessons may have relevance for own mixed communities in the UK as well as for India."
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