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The Peacemakers

The Peacemakers

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India, the land of peace and the birthplace of icons of non-violence such as the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, has been riven by violence and conflict throughout its history. Communal riots, caste violence, disputes over sharing of resources, and a variety of other forms of strife continue to blight our nation. Peace, concord, and amity elude us. However, even as horrific incidents of violence continue to plague us, there have always been those who have dared to stand up against the powerful and protect those under attack. This book profiles some of these extraordinary individuals who acted when it counted. Rajmohan Gandhi chronicles the closing years of Mahatma Gandhi’s life as he worked to stop the violence and bloodshed in Bihar and Bengal soon after Independence. Human rights lawyer and activist Nandita Haksar writes about the challenges in fostering peace in a conflict zone—Nagaland. Rahul Bedi was witness to the grisly massacre of Sikhs in Delhi following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984; he recalls both the killers and saviours. Journalist Uttam Sengupta tries to resolve the mystery of how Bihar remained peaceful after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, when other parts of north and west India went up in flames. Jyoti Punwani profiles some members of civil society who risked their lives to ensure peace in the midst of the communal madness in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Journalist-activist Teesta Setalvad was among the first to record both the violence and efforts at peacekeeping during the Gujarat conflagration of 2002. Her essay shows us that there were those who rose up against violence, at great personal cost. Sunil Kumar, a long-term observer of Maoist violence in the state of Chhattisgarh, profiles the people committed to peace and justice in the restive heart of India. Teresa Rehman's heart-warming essay chronicles the efforts of a non-government organization working towards the empowerment of women in the once conflict-ridden districts of Assam. Ghazala Wahab recalls the halcyon years of 2005–2008 in Kashmir when peace seemed attainable and records the efforts and sacrifices of those committed to a peaceful and just future. Shivam Mogha chronicles the divisive politics and growing insecurity in his hometown of Muzzaffarnagar before it culminated in vicious violence in 2013. He also shines a light on those who rose above the hatred. Natasha Badhwar and Oishika Neogi show that it is possible to do what is right through their essay on the work of Dr Mohammad Anwar during the Delhi violence of 2020. Ramani Atkuri walked part of the way with Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Her essay introduces us to many people who are invested in an inclusive and just India. The stories about these peacemakers—activists, journalists, politicians, leaders, and regular citizens—offer us hope that it is possible to rise above the hatred and violence that have characterized India for much of its life as an independent nation.

Tagged with:

contemporary india / essays / Ghazala Wahab / indian / nonfiction /