Focus shifts from religious conflict to conflict resolution

Focus on religious conflict has unfortunately blurred the efforts on resolution of the conflict and the modern day writings look at the Hindu-Muslim issues entirely from a religious point of view unlike previous decades, where the stress was on conflict resolution.

Noted Telugu poet and professor of South Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Afsar’s new work on Hindu-Muslim relations precisely tries to argue this volatile aspect.

“Historically, there have been religious tensions but the Hindus and Muslims knew the value of co-existence in the erstwhile Hyderabad State,” Afsar argues. The Police Action of 1948 threw up different perspectives and in fact challenged the relations to a certain extent, he says.

But the deep-rooted relations between the communities overcame the crisis and he feels the writers of that era perhaps helped in reconstructing the relations as their focus was less on violence and more on conflict resolution.

As part of the work, he documented evidence speaking to 1,200 people who were witness to or had access to the police action and they included cultural, political and social activists of that time apart from writers. “It is a kind of a broad survey of several sections who saw the police action and my focus is on how those events created or reconstructed religious identities of two communities in the twin cities.”

What is Hyderabadiness? Afsar asks and says that the identity is not about the conflict but about the resolution. The city had a history of communal riots in 1927, much before the Police Action. But unfortunately Police Action was given a political colour with the intervention of the government through mobilisation of forces and involvement of international agencies.

“This led to more political debate with focus on religion,” he says. But people were also engaging with each other quite explicitly and this explicit manifestation of interactions led to conflict resolution.

“If you look at all the writings in Telugu from 1940s to 60s they all speak about conflict resolution rather than just the conflicts.”

The literature related to partition was about the conflict itself but people were also trying to build relations and reconstruction. Perhaps, we need to learn that lesson though politics teach us differently.

Afsar, who teaches South Asian studies and courses related to Hindu Muslim interactions in South Asia, feels the grammar of co-existence is still there. In villages the animosity is less perhaps due to lesser political intervention. And he is not trying to build a new narrative with his findings but trying to create peace.

Afsar, who is in India for the release of “Afsar Kavitvam” (40 years body of work) on Friday at Salarjung Museum, says his work on Hindu-Muslim co-existence will be released in a book form by next year.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 11:05:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/focus-shifts-from-religious-conflict-to-conflict-resolution/article30352447.ece

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