Students on mass contact journey for harmony

Students, who are on a country-wide yatra for peace, on their arrival in Chennai on Friday. — Photo: M. Moorthy

Students, who are on a country-wide yatra for peace, on their arrival in Chennai on Friday. — Photo: M. Moorthy  

CHENNAI, APRIL 24. A small group of students, some of them based in New Delhi, is on a unique journey across the country.

The students are telling people across some 40 cities about the danger of communal polarisation and the need to live in harmony.

It began about a year ago when a few students from New Delhi went to Ahmedabad.

``What we saw there shocked us. Students our age were telling us, `I am so and so. I am a Hindu, or I am so and so, I am a Muslim.' The divide is so deep there," says Kandala Singh, a 17-year-old, who has just completed school from Springdales. When similarly shocked teenagers came together, they wanted to do something about the deep divide in society.

``We were not going to sit back and watch this thing go on. We wanted to react, we wanted to register our protest,'' says Swapnil Gupta, who has just completed his Class 12 board examinations.

So with guidance from Shabnam Hashmi, founder, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, the students organised themselves and later decided on a method of protest: Mass contact.

Step two: get like-minded youth from across the country to join them. That was not difficult; there were many who thought on the same lines.

Finally, early this month 32 young men and women hit the road from New Delhi.

Seventeen days later they were in Chennai, to talk about their concerns for the future and their plans.

They had travelled through Jaipur, Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Nadiad, Godhra, Kalol, Vadodara, Surat, Mumbai, Nagpur, Raipur and other cities. ``It has been a very hectic journey," says Ms. Hashmi.

``They have been travelling literally non-stop from one city to another. In each city they have to attend a meeting or address a press conference or take out a rally.''

While the reception to the team, travelling in four Qualis vans, was generally warm, it also encountered hostility.

On April 11, a group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists attacked the students at Vadodara. The students and Ms. Hashmi said that the activists were angered by what the students were propagating.

The experience unnerved the students initially but only made them resolve that they would remain firm in their `Meri Awaz Suno' - the Youth Aman Karwan (a voyage through the entire nation). The cause was more important.

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