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Malegaon,

Not The One You Know

 

 

The way people are

actually living in Malegaon surprised the French student

Says, I didn't find any tension between the people in the town

Friday January 23, 2009 07:25:26 PM IST, Aleem Faizee

 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

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Malegaon, a town in India with more than 70% Muslim population has always been considered as a communally sensitive place. However, there is a place in Malegaon where a Mosque and a Mandir exist side by side with Muslims and Hindus, both living there in peace since last many years. Same is the case with the whole town. Except for the selected few who always try to create trouble, the whole town comprises the peace loving people . Still, the tag of being a communally sensitive place is attributed with the town...Full Story

 

 

 

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Sare Jahan Se Accha

Hindustan Hamara

In 1905 more than 100 years from today, when Iqbal was a lecturer at the Government College, Lahore he was invited by his student Lala Hardayal to preside over a function. Instead of making a speech, Iqbal sang Sare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara in his style. Iqbal compiled this poem in praise of India and the poem preaches the communal harmony that had unfortunately started ceasing in India by that time. Each and every word in this poem depicts an Indian’s respect and love for the motherland and the values the Indian society inherited for long...Read Full
 

Sarah, the French student is working

on Communal riots in Malegaon

Sarah Minhia, a French national and student of politics at Institute of Political Studies Lille, France (Institut d’ etudes politiques de Lille, France) had recently visited Malegaon for her research work on the Communal Riots in Malegaon. Malegaon has seen several communal riots in the past. But the October 2001 riot was the worst that the town had seen in its history. The intensity of the October conflict can be gauged from the remarks expressed by few political observers and analysts who after the Gujarat carnage in 2002 had said that whatever had happened in Malegaon in October 2001 was the rehearsal of Gujarat 2002 carnage.

 

In this exclusive interview, Sarah shared her valuable views about the town with Aleem Faizee for ummid.com readers. While expressing surprise over the total harmony with which the natives of the town are generally living in Malegaon, she suggested various means for further strengthening the communal accord.

The Excerpts:

 

Communal riots are not rare in India. The 2002 Gujarat riot was virtually genocide. Of late nearby Dhule had also gone through a communal conflict. So why have you chosen Malegaon for your research work?

I first visited India in August 2007 when I came to Pune for my earlier research work on Sociology of India. During my nine months stay in India, I started enjoying the country. At the same time while working on my topic I realized that the focus of my study is concentrating just on Hindus, the majority community in India. I decided to widen my research but I was surprised to know that not much is available on the sociology of other communities and people belonging to other religions. Nevertheless I somehow managed to complete my project but somewhere inside my mind I was feeling uneasiness and wanted to do something more on India. When I consulted my Research Guide Sharmila Reje of Pune University she suggested me to work on the communal riots in Malegaon.

 

Malegaon, I had never heard of this place before. (Not even after the September 2008 blast in the town when in a surprising breakthrough, Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) arrested the terrorists associated with Hindu right wing terrorist organization and Malegaon was into the limelight of the national and international media till Mumbai underwent worst kind of terrorist attack in November 2008, she said replying to a pointed question) A hugely Muslim populated town with a series of communal restlessness so near to Pune where I had lived for almost a year was really a surprise for me.

 

A totally unknown and unfamiliar place for you, how did you plan your research work?

When I began gathering information about Malegaon, to my surprise I found enough contents about the town on Internet. The riots, the bomb blasts and all kinds of bad things about Malegaon, I found most of the things on Internet. Though these contents were related to my project and were helpful it was amazing to find so many bad things associated to a single town with such a sizeable Muslim majority and almost zilch about its virtues. This was enough for me to plan a visit to the town.

 

The contents on the Internet and widespread speculations in the media about Malegaon must have created a particular perception in your mind about the town. What was your first reaction when you arrived in Malegaon?

Honestly speaking I expected and was prepared for a strange and hostile kind of environment in Malegaon. But believe me I was delighted to see the harmony with which people in general are living in this town. After few minutes ride in and around the town, all my apprehensions were blown into the air.

 

Yet it is a fact that the town has seen a series of communal conflicts and even today it is regarded as one of the most communally sensitive place in India. You are in the town since last one week and you have spoke to various people from both the communities, what in your view is the root cause of the trouble?

The root cause of the problem in my view is the lack of education. After meeting several people it seems that a kind of political agenda is certainly playing a pivotal role in inciting the trouble between the communities not only in Malegaon but also in other parts of India. It is really strange to see few political parties in this country are solely working on religious based politics. In an attempt to get the political mileage they incite the tension between two communities. Illiterate mob easily becomes prey to their trap. Trouble begins and gives clear advantage to these political parties.

 

In Malegaon basic structural development is the other area of concern. People it seems have lost the faith in the system. Such environments give way to provocation and small incident under such conditions can at any time be exploited to incite big communal conflict. What surprised me the most is the clear distinction between two parts of the town. While one part of the town where Hindus are residing is having comparatively better civil and other amenities, the other part where more than 75% population of the town comprising of people from the Muslim community are living, does not get the needed care from the administration.

 

However by maintaining total peace and harmony in the town first after the blast in September 2006 and then again after the recent blast in September 2008, people have demonstrated that violent reactions are the bygone for the town and people here have learnt to live together.

 

What do you suggest for further strengthening the communal accord in Malegaon?

One thing I have seen in Malegaon is that while there are many NGOs working in the town, like Malegaon they are also divided on communal lines. I have met people working with Muslim NGOs and Hindu NGOs but failed to find anyone who is part of a NGO where Muslims and Hindus are jointly working for a common cause. The town badly needs few NGOs comprising of the people from both the communities. Also, it is needed that instead of limiting their activities to the educated people, the NGOs should also work among the illiterate masses in the town. Moreover the town should have more and more inter-community dialogues and frequent gatherings where people

 

You have gone through the details of the riots that occurred in Malegaon. The details of the casualties and material losses are in front of you. Despite being in majority, Muslims in Malegaon have suffered heavily in the riots. Amazingly the people who died in police firing are also from the Muslim community. Do you think the police fail in containing the riots? Do you think increasing number of Muslims and people from other religions into the police force is a solution?

While I would not comment on the role of police, I must say that the police force in India is not professional. However increasing the number of people from Muslim community and from other religions is not a solution for better policing. Policeman is a policeman. One should not differentiate them on the basis of his or her religion. What India requires is a professionally trained police force with an open mindset.

 

Are you planning any more research work in India?

As I told you I am really enjoying your country and I am planning to work on few more projects after completing my research work on Malegaon riots. The immediate topics I am willing to work on are Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and Slums in Mumbai.

 

Valuable suggestions from Sarah Minhia indeed. Sarah traveled from France to Malegaon specially for her research work on Malegaon Communal riots. Despite her busy schedule she took time off for this interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

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