The UP State Peace convention was held in Varanasi at Matridham Ashram, Chandmari on 26th November 2009. There were about 150 participants attended the Convention from various districts. The convention began at about 10.30 a.m. and continued upto 5.30 p.m. The Convention was organized and hosted by Centre for Harmony and Peace, headed by Dr. Mohammed Arif. Dr. Arif opened the convention by welcoming all the participants and outlining the purpose of the convention and also gave a brief outline of all the activities of AISF, UP State.
The Convention was addressed by Dr. Sanjay Srivastav of Progressive Writers Association, Mr. Dev from Indian People’s Theatre Association, Dr. Gorakh Pandey, Lecturer, UP College, Varanasi, Maulana Nizamuddin, Akhilesh Kumar Verma from Mau Dist., Dr. K.L. Sonkar, Progressive Writers Association and IPTA, Jaunpur, Lal Prakash Rahi, a law college student from Jaunpur and leading Young India Students, Mohammed Amin Ansari, Nisar from ASMITA working on the issue of Non-formal education and domestic workers, Rajesh Sundar Vikas from Sonbhadra Dist, working on forest dwellers rights, Nadir Ali from Sociology Dept, Benaras Hindu University, Rajesh Yadav, who works as a trainer for school teachers, Meraj Khan from Faizabad, a Ph.D. Student and active on Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, Prem Prakash, PWA, Varanasi, Mr. Jawahar from Dynamic Action Group, Gazipur, working on health issues and children’s education, Jarawati Devi, Jan Vikas Samiti, Manoj Kumar Singh Yadav from Mohamdabad, Dipti, a cultural activist, Rajneesh, a researcher working with BHU, Ramashish Yadav, student leader from Ghazipur, Adv. Syed Zafar Ali, Moradabad, Sharif bhai and Mohd. Khalid from Sultanpur, Indray from Chandauli working on issues of child labour, Mr. Akela from Om Swastik Sansthan working on issues of education, Tabassum Naz from Pilibhit, heading the NGO Jan Kalyan Shikshan Prashikshan Samiti, Babita Ranjan from Jagriti Trust working with dalits and backward class sections on the issue of their education and employment, Mujahid bhai from Rampur and a film script writer, Adv. Mahmood Alam from Faizabad working on the issue of human rights, particularly those of minorities, Ajitbhai from Gudiya organization working on the issue of forced prostitution, Ms. Bharti Singh working on the issue of education among the slum dwellers, Rahul Berna from Samaj Seva Trust, Bhadohi, working on the issue of women’s empowerment and child labour, Vijay Pratap Bharti, from Dr. Ambedkar Vidyarthi Sanghatan, Ms. Naseem Khan working among women, Akash from Barelly, Naushad Ahamed and Dr. Amajad Ali from Ghazipur, Dr. Fazal and Dr. Rajeev Singh from Azamgarh, Vinod Kumar, working with Nacdor from Jaunpur, Dr. Pratyush Pandey, lecturer in Allahabad University and representing PRAYAG, Fr. Puroy of Prerna Kala Manch which has staged a number of plays on communalism and other social issues, Mr. Motilal Gupta, Director, Prerna Kala Manch Irfan Engineer and many others from different parts of Uttar Pradesh.
During the Convention, the speakers analyzed various aspects of communalism in UP and its impact on the society. Among the issues highlighted were that Communalism sought to further exclude and marginalize weaker sections of the society, including the dalits, adivasis, women, minorities and workers, that it was anti-democratic and civil liberties, that it was against the Constitution, that it was against social justice and sought to privilege those born in upper class-upper caste, North India males from the cow belt and impose a certain identity on the entire society, that it was against diversity and pluralism, that it preached hatred against various sections of society, particularly the under privileged and minorities, that it promoted sectarianism and promoted primordial identities.
Various suggestions came up for combating communalism in UP, which included spreading awareness on the character of communalism and its impact on vital institutions of the nation, including democracy; spreading awareness about cultural diversity and composite nature of culture in India; engage with school and college curricula with the intention of secularizing and democratizing it and making it more inclusive; fight communal and stereo-typical attitudes within family; dialogue with the godmen; fight for the human rights of minorities; work for empowerment of the marginalized sections and on their common issues; preach secular nationalism and patriotism and spread atheism. There was no unanimity on preaching nationalism-patriotism and spreading atheism.
The action plan that was finalized included setting up resource centres and film clubs, forming peace committees in various areas, organizing workshops on peace and communal harmony, studying the text-books and communalization of education, workshops for teachers and media persons, engaging with media through letter to the editors and bringing as many organizations working for social justice and peace on the platform of All India Secular Forum and centre for harmony and peace.
The action plan included organizing a ToT workshop, three workshops each in the month of December, January and February for teachers, media persons and activists, strengthening cultural activities, increase production and distribution of educational material on the issue of communalism. The plan also included awareness on the Communal Violence Bill and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill.