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Gujarat authorities try to block Karwan-e-Mohabbat's campaign for peace, speakers notice atmosphere of fear

The caravan bus
By Our Representative
Karwan-e-Mohabbat, led by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, reached Ahmedabad on Monday from Rajasthan amidst surprising revelation circles in Gujarat government allegedly pressurised owners of halls across Ahmedabad not to provide a space to hold to an open dialogue with citizens on why it is necessary as never before to bring about rapprochement and peace between different communities.
John Dayal, a well-known minority-rights activist who is part of the Caravan of Love, told Counterview that even civil society activists were pressurised not to support the cause upheld by Mander's team. "It was sad to see some them succumb to pressure", he said. The result was, instead of holding its dialogue in a prominent hall in Ahmedabad, it had to depend on whatever space that was available in Juhapura, one of Asia's biggest Muslim ghetto, in Gandhi Hall.
Even as the dialogue was on, cops outside, alighting from a police van, were seen asking organisers whether the meeting would be over " soon". The cops were heard saying, "They have been permitted to hold the meeting between 2 PM and 7 PM, not beyond. They should better wind up before 7 PM. They can't be permitted any longer."
The caravan, which will end its month-long campaign at Porbandar on October 2 after traversing several states, including Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, met with resistance at Behror, Rajasthan, where travelling in a luxury bus, was stoned, and he had to sit on dharna for not being allowed to pay respects to Pehlu Khan, who was lynched in April by vigilantes on suspicion of transporting cows for slaughter.
Vinay, Charul campaign singers
Speaking in Ahmedabad, Mander, who came for the dialogue after meeting the family of Mohammad Ayub, who was lynched in Ahmedabad exactly a year ago, September 16, 2016, said there was an "atmosphere of fear and desperation, especially among minorities across India and Gujarat", adding, the only way to counter it is by "creating an atmosphere of peace".
Addressing the audience, which consisted mainly Muslims and Dalits, Mander said, "All through our caravan we found that, locally, there was very little remorse for what was happening with minorities." Referring to what he had seen at one place, he added, "We were told by people of a dominant community that the only way to buy peace would be to pardon them for what they did with the minority, and the latter would be allowed back into the village."
Speaking on the occasion, Gujarat-based human rights expert Gagan Sethi questioned on what he called "mad development model" which is being promoted by the Government of India. "They are spending more than Rs 1 lakh crore of Japanese loan on bullet train. Why couldn't the Japanese be persuaded instead to spend money on quality roads, which have all got broken in Ahmedabad following the rains?"
Gujarat's top Dalit rights leader Jignesh Mevani asked the audience to "unite" and ensure the defeat of the "fascist BJP" in the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat, insisting,
Harsh Mander (left)
"This should be our one line agenda." He said, "There is a need to combine the fight against the fascistic ways like lynching of minorities and Dalits, and economic demands. We must ask: What has happened to 50 lakh houses the BJP had promised, for instance."
Senior High Court advocate Anand Yagnik, even as backing Mevani's call to back the "less evil" Congress during the assembly polls, contended, "The BJP came to power by creating an atmosphere of fear in the majority community by seeking to project the minorities in an extremely negative light. The Dalit-Muslim unity could be the answer."

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