Godhra Riots (India, 2002)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been at the forefront of proactive action to foster communal harmony in India.
When communal riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, he not only rushed a team of volunteers to provide trauma relief to the victims, but was also one of the first leaders to visit the relief camps. The communal carnage had led to death and displacement of thousands of people from both the Muslim and Hindu communities.
Sri Sri himself visited the affected areas after the riots and interacted with people sheltered in relief camps run by the Hindu and Muslim communities. He held discussions with community leaders on how to restore normalcy and build trust between communities.
People from both the communities welcomed his intervention and said that they were with him to be in peace and love.
Working with leaders of both communities
The Art of Living volunteers also worked with the local community leaders to restore harmony among people from different communities. As a result of one such engagement, five Maulvis and 35 prominent Muslim leaders from Godra, the worst affected area, undertook a joint peace rally, joined by 150 people from both communities across Devgarh, Baria and several other Muslim dominated areas. Following this peace measure, violence stopped in the area.
The peace initiatives of The Art of Living were a great success in restoring confidence, a sense of trust and belongingness among people. The people started to see The Art of Living volunteers as the bridge between the administration and them.
Trauma relief to ease fear and distrust
Trained volunteers of The Art of Living made themselves available in 25 camps to bring solace to the people affected by the riots. Trauma relief programs were conducted to help them to overcome the pain and trauma of the violence and the loss of near and dear ones.
In Kutub-e-Aalam Dargah camp in Ahmedabad, the recovery was so fast that within a month and a half the residents were able go back to their homes and the government could close the camp. Seven hundred fifty people, including 300 students who were appearing for the standard ten board examinations, attended the trauma relief programs at the camp.
These workshops also helped to ease the atmosphere of distrust, allowing people to cope with feelings of revenge, betrayal and hatred and to extend a helping hand to members of both communities.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE OUTREACH PROGRAM
- Reached out to hundreds of people in 25 camps across volatile regions.
- Over 450 residents in the Kutub-e-Aalam Dargah camp in Ahmedabad experienced reduction in fear and decided to go back to their homes (located in the areas hit by the carnage). The result: the camp was closed in 45 days.
- Stress elimination workshops helped 300 people resume normal lives at the Jahangir Nagar relief camp. That camp too was closed in 10 days.
- Violence stopped in some of the worst-affected areas such as Devgarh and Baria after a peace rally was held, supported by members of the Hindu and Muslim communities.
- This rally was the result of a dialogue between the Art of Living and religious heads