Hate NOT ok please!

Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch realised that while a lot of people are against communal polarisation in the city, they want someone else to take charge first

A group of Muslims offer namaz in Gurgaon
A group of Muslims offer namaz in Gurgaon

Garima Sadhwani

"The Right-Wing forces attacking the namaz is cannot be tolerated. They’ve been praying here for decades, and the most it takes is half an hour. Stopping them is against our Constitution,” says Arti Jaiman, a volunteer with Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch. She adds that it is the responsibility of citizens, administration and police officials to ensure that the minority communities can pray in peace.

Jaiman added, “It started with the Muslims, but there were also attacks on churches during Christmas. We want to hold the authorities accountable for not protecting the rights of the citizens. Till how long can you stay unaffected knowing that someone else is being made to feel unsafe?”

Back in 2018, when the namaz row in Gurgaon had first started, a group of concerned citizens came together under the banner of Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch. They knew Gurgaon did not have a history of communal behaviour or polarisation, and they wanted to restore the old glory of the city.

Over the years, the group banded together for relief work for migrant labourers, join community kitchens and prepare meals for Covid victims. However, four years later, they’re back again from where they had started. With hate crimes against minorities rising, the Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch is now working on a political campaign against the same.

Mukta Naik, another volunteer, feels that to keep the secular fabric of the country intact, the pushback is needed from citizens and the justice system. Naik says, “Those who perpetrate violence or intimidate minorities are doing it with impunity, with no fear of law. And there seems to be a vicious atmosphere here in Haryana, even though it’s not bound for elections soon.”

The campaign is essentially to tell the perpetrators that the citizens of Gurgaon are not party to this hate, and that the hate politics won’t be tolerated, say both of them. The campaign began on Martyrs’ Day (30th January), the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, to show what happens when hate politics is allowed to run unchecked.

Jaiman shares that the campaign is being run online, with volunteers sharing artwork, posters, stories, etc, that portray the message of unity, which is actually what the people of Gurgaon want. She says, “There is so much hate on the internet. We want to see if a message of love can go viral here.” Naik feels it’s never been more important to speak up against hatred and bigotry.

What inspired this campaign was the fact that while a lot of people are against this polarisation simmering in the city, they want someone else to take charge first. The first campaign Not in My Name will run for two weeks, after which the group might come up with more campaigns.

Naik adds, “There are a lot of people who are uncomfortable about this but they don’t really have an avenue to speak out and are scared of making overtly political posts. People, especially women, know that they’ll be targeted and trolled if they speak out.”

For Jaiman, what makes this campaign special is the fact that an informal collective of people cares enough about society to not just come together, but is attempting to get more citizens involved and in touch with the ground reality. Jaiman says, “We want to encourage people to choose love as a vision for this country. We want people to know that to push back, 10 voices are not enough, we need a billion.”

While this campaign’s aim is to get more people to be vocal, Naik is a bit apprehensive if it can convert directly into pressure on the administration to take action. “We know that the administration cares about what’s happening on social media, they pay close attention to it.” Naik feels this campaign will work more in the way of testing the waters to see how many people from Gurgaon join them and talk about inclusion and diversity.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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