Inclusive India

Uniting Against Islamophobia: Kolkata Scholars Advocate for Interfaith Understanding

Intellectuals discuss Islamophobia in the wake of CAA and NRC to mark the International Day of Islamophobia. It was also followed by ‘Dosti Ki Iftari’- an annual interfaith iftar event of Know Your Neighbour

Kolkata: At a time when hate speech and Islamophobic comments are at its peak in India, what would be the best way to counter them? To answer this, over 150 scholars, authors, academics, educators, researchers, former bureaucrats, social activists and members of the civil society gathered at an event to commemorate International Day of Islamophobia, that’s observed on March 15.

In the closed-door gathering, the panel comprising professor Epsita Halder, Biswendu Nanda -writer, researcher and social activist, Professor Rajyeswar Sinha, Journalist and writer Souvojit Bagchi and Ahamed Hassan Imran and researcher Sabir Ahamed, who moderated the discussion were seen not just highlighting the recent rise of Islamophobia not just in the political space of Bengal, but also in schools and colleges and possibly how one could bring and an end to the increasing intolerance.

“We need to understand that CAA wasn’t implemented to solve India’s refugee problem. If that had been the intention, then why this law despite having been passed in December 2019 has been implemented just four-weeks ahead of the general elections. Once the election is over, it will again be put on the back burners only to be brought out again in the next elections,” highlighted Souvojit Bagchi. He maintained that the entire exercise of CAA implementation has been done with the sole agenda of polarising voters of north and central India.

However, co-panelist Professor Rajyeswar Sinha chose to differ. “The present political scenario of the new India is making a certain section push back while another section is being seen making claims that everything belongs to them. And with time this cry will be getting louder. With time CAA and NRC will be seen making more noise. So, what is the need of the hour?”

“We need to organise programmes that will allow us to reach out to the masses at a micro-level, initiate dialogues and talks that will reduce the ever-widening divide among the communities,” he added.

islamophobia interfaith iftar intellectuals kolkata caa nrc
Speakers at the Dosti Ki Iftar event

During the discussion Biswendu Nanda chose to highlight the fact that Islamophobia is nothing new to India. “The Islamophobia that we are witnessing today is the remnant of the hatred sown during the first crusade.”

Explaining how different means of communication are being used to create Islamophobia among youngsters. Mentioning the Shraddha Walker case, Pratik Sinha of AltNews explained, “We are in an era, when a child switches on a TV channel then everywhere he/she goes, only one news will be played that how Sharddha has been killed by a Muslim man. Given the fact that in present India all means of communication or news dissemination being compromised there is a high chance of kids of present India growing up with a skewed perception that Muslims cannot be trusted or that they are evil.” He explained how the ruling party and their cadres are using all forms of media and sources of information to vilify a particular narrative and consequently weaponize every possible instance of crimes committed by someone to target Muslims. He concluded, “It is important for groups that oppose such narratives to either form or contribute towards forming their own sources of information and media platforms.”

The session was followed by “Dosti-Ki-Iftari’ – an interfaith iftar gathering which is hosted annually by Know Your Neighbour (KYN). 

The event was jointly organised by Minority Council of Bengal (MCB) and KYN, a social initiative aimed at promoting interfaith dialogues and social harmony that organises a number of events throughout the year, including neighbourhood walks, discussions, and other such activities.

At the end, Assistant Professor Mohammed Reyaz and member of KYN gave a vote of thanks to all the participants.

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