Marad Peace Initiative: A Gandhian Intervention in an Inter-religious Conflict
AbstractThe paper documents the peace intervention made by activists from four Gandhian organisations of Kerala(1) for restoring communal harmony in a coastal fishing village called Marad where in two violent communal (Hindu - Muslim) conflicts that occurred in 2002 and 2003, fourteen people were killed. Marad, a fishermen’s village on the Arabian Sea coast in northern Kerala in India, consists of a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims. In the past there existed a strong bond of interconnectedness among the villagers generated and strengthened by the challenges of sea-fishing together. Although communal harmony was occasionally marred by ordinary bickering between the villagers on insignificant issues, these were previously resolved locally. Gradually, political parties and communal organisations manipulated these petty squabbles and altercations into two violent communal clashes in 2002 and 2003 which left 15 people dead from both communities. Further intervention by militant Hindu organisations resulted in flight from the village by all 400-500 Muslim families of Marad to three relief camps. Owing to the stiff resistance of external militant Hindu organisations the government of Kerala could not organize the return of the Muslim families back to their homes. Police intervention also failed. Subsequently the Kerela State government approached Kerela based Gandhian organisations for help. These local Gandhian organisations organized jointly to establish a peace camp in Marad. The organizations collected locally relief supplies and established relationships with the villagers and the families which had fled to safe camps. The Gandhian organizations developed a strategy of community interactive dialogue and accompanied phased return of the families which had fled back to their homes in the village. The author provides a critical insiders view of the experiences of this peace initiative which provides a positive model of addressing communal strife.
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