Civil Society Ushers a New Hope


Civil Society Ushers a New Hope in Defeating the Fundamentalist Forces in the Society An Initiative for Peace in Kandhamal, Orissa

The culmination of the peace rallies in the conflict-ridden Kandhamal District, Orissa, came to an end with a peace rally in the streets of Phulbani and with a public meeting on the 17th December 2008. The peace rallies started from 9th December 2008, where the Primary School Teachers took part and lead the rallies went around seventy villages and blocks in Kandhamal District spreading the message of peace with street theatres and with indigenous cultural expressions. These peace rallies were organised by the Navanirman Samithi and the All Utkal Primary Teachers Federation (AUPTF) and was supported by several other civil society organisations, and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) was proud to be one among those who supported and encouraged these peace initiatives. When Dalit Christians & Tribal Christians were badly affected by the inhuman religious fundamentalists, these peace rallies fostered support and solidarity to those affected and sent out a strong message that civil society is for peace and community building.

On the 17th December 2008, nearly 3000 teachers from all parts of Kandhamal and even from other parts of Orissa went in a procession and gathered at Coronation Grounds in Phulbani town. The public gathering started with the performance of a street theatre group on the reasons for the conflicts and the ways in which common citizens and peopleís movements can drive away those evil forces, which create conflict and hatred among people. The public gathering was addressed by a galaxy of dignitaries, social activists and teacherís federation leaders. Mr. Sandeep Pandey, the International Magsaysay Award winner was one among those who addressed the gathering and called on the teachers present to implant peace education among their students and also requested the teachersí community to explain & analyse the contextual realities to their students and nurture them with values of justice, secularism and democracy. He also explained the evils of the nuclear power, to which our Indian government is so enthusiastically inclined to implement in India.

These peace rallies and the public meeting on peace, have univocally proclaimed that the forces of religious fundamentalism, communalism, terrorism, globalisation & casteism will be easily defeated in this land of India, and gave out the bold message that unity will be triumphant, peace will be triumphant, justice will be triumphant and civil society initiatives will yield peace & harmony among people of different faith. Other directive that emerged from these rallies and the public gathering are, for peace making no one is alone for the whole community is in solidarity with such people and efforts. Religious festivals will give a better opportunity for all people of faith in building peace and confidence measures has also been a direction that evolved consensus in the gathering. In this pretext, it was again reiterated that no force that calls for a bandh on Christmas this year can be tolerated, and expressed their wish that all Christians specially in Kandhamal should and shall celebrate their festival in all freedom & happiness. All the teachers that have gathered committed to take forward the message of peace and urged all the religious communities to give up their fundamentalistic attitudes for the cause of peace and community living. They have also expressed their concern on how such riots affect the education of the children for most of children are in relief camps suffering with basic necessities.

The other dignitaries that attended and spoke on the occasion are Mr. Bijaykar Bisoi, President AUPTF, Mr. Ravindra Jena, General Secretary AUPTF, Prof. Sasavijay Arya from Shahajani, Mrs. Krishna Mohanty, Mr. Anantha Charan Sahoo, Mr. Akshaya Kumar, Convenor Navanirman Samithi, Dr. Biswajit, Rashtriya Yuva Sangatana, Swami Hansraj,† Mr. SK Khalik from Nayagada, Mr. Angelious Michael, Vice President, NCCI,† and Dr. John Chelladurai, Director, India Peace Centre. The public gathering came to an end with a fellowship lunch with all the teachers. These peace rallies and public meeting followed the National Discourse on Secularism on the 7th December in Bhubaneswar, during which it was called to participate and support in these peace processes as part of the follow up to that national discourse. On the whole the peace rallies and the public gathering were eventful programmes in terms of ushering new hope in defeating the evil forces in the society. As a follow up to these peace rallies and peace gatherings, it was discussed to organise peace training programmes for all teachers so that they will nurture the children and they can also participate actively in conflict resolution process in times of such need.

Rev. Raj Bharath Patta, Secretary, NCCI-Commission on Dalits