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Published in the 16-30 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hindus, Muslims sign declarations of amity

Ahmedabad: About 3,000 Hindus and Muslims in this volatile Gujarat city have signed declarations of communal harmony, vowing to fight communalism. 
The drive launched by the Society for Promotion of Rational Thinking (SPRAT), an NGO set up in the aftermath of the 2002 sectarian violence that killed at least 1,000 people, aims at bridging the chasm between the two communities. 
For Hindus, the declaration reads: "I am proud that India is a secular country and not 'Hindu Rashtra'." 

In a reference to the killings in the train burning in Godhra where 59 people died and in the Gulberg Housing Society in Ahmedabad where 45 people were torched to death, the declaration says: "The blood that flowed from Godhra to Gulberg Society was not Hindu or Muslim blood but Indian blood." 
For Muslims, the declaration reads: "I am committed to coming out of backwardness." 

"I am committed to education, especially girls' education in my family. I believe in the concept of small family... Those who helped Muslims in trying times were Hindus, and I feel a sense of solidarity with them," it goes on to say. 
The two-week drive was launched under the banner of Satya Satyagrah by SPRAT president Hasan Jowher. 

Jowher, who has been on a sit-in since Oct 2 at the eastern Ahmedabad neighbourhood of Shah-e-Alam that was the site of the biggest relief camp for the Muslims in 2002, said this is the time to generate positive feelings amongst the two communities. 

"I chose Gandhiji's birth anniversary as an auspicious occasion to start this drive and Shah-e-Alam as the place," he said 

"In 2002, Shah-e-Alam meant bad news for the people. But from this year, this place will always mean good news," Jowher told IANS. 

He said the declaration had been signed by 2,200 Muslims and 800 Hindus. "Since Shah-e-Alam is a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, the Hindus naturally turned out in low numbers. We will continue with the drive for four more days," he said.

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