The journey of a peace artist from Ahmedabad’s National Peace Group
Gomtipur is located at a distance of 5.5 kms from the famous Lal Darwaja in Ahmedabad. In the 70s and 80s a large number of people in Gomtipur were employed in textile mills. The urban working class that emerged was ethnically and religiously inclusive. The riots of 1969 and 1992 caused minor religious divide. Communal polarization began in the late 90s. It led to insecurity and fear among religious communities that gave rise to ghettoization in housing. This was also the period when the textile industry collapsed and as a result, the working class solidarity deteriorated. The phase saw a sharpening of Hindu identity of Dalits and their mobilization to the cause of Hindutva. Gomtipur also witnessed communal riot during the state-wide communal violence in 2002.
The slow polarization resulted in formation of separate Muslims and Dalit clusters. In the part of Gomtipur that we visited the Dalit and Muslim clusters are situated adjacent to each other. Muslims and Dalits maintain limited working relations but the fear of being attacked and general lack of trust prevents social intercourse between the two communities. A section of houses of Muslims in Gomtipur were burnt during the communal violence in 2002. These houses were located on the border of the clusters. In 2015 there was a communal clash in Gomtipur preceding the Municipal corporation election. Even today Gomtipur witnesses’ intermittent communal clashes when street fights are given communal colours. Having witnessed the conflict while growing up, Mushtaqueali a resident of the Muslim cluster in Gomtipur co-founded National Peace Group (NPG) in 2009.
National Peace Group works with youth, children and elders to bring about peace and communal harmony in sensitive/conflict areas in and around Ahmedabad. Through street plays they discuss gender, rights and development issues. NPG organises activities like diversity walks to culturally and historically significant places and religious sites in Ahmedabad, celebration of festivals, lectures, workshops and exposure visits that facilitate social interaction among participants from varied ethnic and religious backgrounds and enables well informed cross cultural and religious understanding.
The National Peace Group sends its message far and wide with original and symbolic activities. On 14th April 2016, NPG in collaboration with local Dalit organisations inaugurated and led the Ambedkar Day rally through the Muslim area with support of Muslim shopkeepers in the area. Such activities send a powerful message of unity in Gomtipur. In August 2015, Muslims, Hindus and Christians gathered for an Iftaar party at the 400 year old Jagannath Mahadev Mandir in Rajnath- Gomtipur, organised by National Peace Group. This went down as a significant event in the history of area.