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Onwards, soldiers of peace!

Congress tries the tight-rope walk: standing for secularism without annoying Hindus

After bad news, there is some good news for the peace-loving people of this country. Recently, a forum Sadbhavana ke Sipahi (soldiers of peace and harmony) was launched by Congress, the oldest political party of India.

Congress, which always tries to project itself as a secular party but sometimes acts like the B-team of BJP, seems worried about the latest happenings in Gujarat. Rigid stance of RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP has increased its worry. 

To counter them, it has formed this forum. Through this, it wants to give a message to the country that this is the party which fights for secularism, without annoying Hindus.

This forum has been launched at a time when the country is going through the worst phase of communal polarisation after independence. Communalism has become the main slogan of the people belonging to the ideology of "Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan". 

Murder, loot, rape and arson were the leitmotif of life in Gujarat two months ago. It was like the India of 1947, when communalism had spread to the countryside. Hindus and Muslims, who fought shoulder to shoulder against the British for the independence of the country, were killing each other. The bond of friendship, brotherhood and enthusiasm to sacrifice themselves for each other were no longer there. No one was thinking about being Indian. All were considering themselves as Hindus or Muslims. Everyone wanted to reach areas where their community was in majority. 

After the Godhra tragedy of February 27, Gujarat was forced into a 1947-like situation by the state and Central government with their acts of omission and commission.

Now, when hate and communal ill-will have spread all over the country, a few Good Samaritans are talking about peace and harmony. Sadbhavana ke Sipahi (SkS) is headed by the filmstar-turned Congressman and noted social activist, Sunil Dutt.

According to Dutt, "It is a non-political forum and is open to anybody having faith in secularism, philosophy of Gandhi, peace and brotherhood. It will work for peace, goodwill and harmony in the country".

SKS has a central advisory board of 21 members a "rapid action force" comprising Congressmen and women will be its "infantry" in the war against communalism.

In his first yatra in Gujarat last fortnight, Dutt got wide support from people belonging to all walks of life. In Amreli, he addressed a rally of about 10,000 children and said that his constituency (in north-west Mumbai) would finance the education and all other expenses of 1,000 riot-hit orphans for at least one year.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi gave Rs 2,500 each to about 12 children and is also expected to be in Golden Temple at Amritsar to flag off the next yatra, which would go to the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu and the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar. Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh are the three states identified by the forum as troublespots requiring attention of the sipahi. Dutt, who led peace yatras in Punjab during the 80s, and in Mumbai after 1993 bomb blasts, seems serious about his new programme.

He is planning to organise a logo competition for children to ensure their involvement in his programme. The winner will get an award and opportunity to have Sunil Dutt with him for a day.

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