For someone enamoured by Mallika Sarabhai in school days, you can't help but still be.

The dove eyes are there. So is the curved-carved nose. Yes, there is a certain magic about her that allures you. And yet, it's the beauty of her thought that strikes all.

Coming from a society which is grappling with issues like communal harmony, she firmly believes that Indian society is blinded by prejudice and would take a generation to get rid of bigotry.

What people need to understand, says the danseuse-social activist, is that society is like a body.

“If one part of me has cancer all of my body is in danger. If we are mistreating one community then the whole society is in danger.”

‘Intolerance frightening'

“Prejudice in religion, caste poses an existential threat to society,” she says describing the levels of intolerance fed by politics or religion as frightening. In her home State of Gujarat, she is currently working with children as young as six years, to remove malice among younger generation.

“Most of the hatred is fed to us,” she says, “Unless we work with young people we will not be able to change anything… We have to find ways that they do not realise (we are trying to bring about a change). If you say I am trying to break down your prejudice, they will resist.”

Faults government

Prod her on the big debate in the country now, naxalism, and she finds fault with the government's approach in dealing with the issue.

“We have been treating huge parts of the population unfairly. The only way they are being paid attention to is through violence. What you have to deal with is not violence; you have to deal with their basic problems. They need to be safe. They need to feel they have a secure future. They need to be part of the land.”

Driven to act

To her, the tribals are driven to take up arms.

“I don't justify violence but if you drive somebody so much that they have no alternative, then you are to blame. When a housewife who has been beaten everyday for 30 years finally picks up a kitchen knife and kills her husband, the husband has driven her to that.”

And she wonders, “Is it a coincidence that every place where there is violence is a place where there are lots of minerals and suddenly multinationals are interested?”

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