As I get ready to lead a group of eight MIIS students to Gujarat, the land of Mahatma Gandhi and my hometown, I am excited about introducing “my world” to the Monterey Institute through this course. I am however unsure of much of Gujarat remains my world. Not just the fact that much has changed geographically since I last lived here over 12 years ago but the fact that the social and cultural landscape has been politicised to a degree that makes me as much an outsider as the rest of the group. It is going to be a fascinating experience being both an insider and a outsider in this research effort.
This is my fourth field course for the students at the Monterey Institute. The first time however that it is not a part of the ‘Challenges to Peacebuilding’ series. This course is a study of the social, cultural, political historical journey through Gandhi’s land and is titled ‘Journey through Gandhi’s Land’. It is also the first time that the course is being offered through the Centre for Conflict Studies (CCS) in India (www.centre4conflictstudies.org).
Gujarat, from where Mahatma Gandhi led India’s freedom struggle has historically seen much violence between its Hindu and Muslim communities. In 2002, the state saw state directed genocidal violence against the Muslim community. Ten years later, the scars still exist, justice still denied and peace still negative. Politically, the state remains in the stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party that adhers to the Hindutva ideology – one nation, one culture, one people. Sound familiar? Yes, a very fascist agenda.
The picture on our header is of the window at the Sidi Sayed mosque in Ahmedabad city in Gujarat. The intricate lattice work on its Jalis (windows) is what it is most famous for but for many of us, this ancient 16th century mosque is the symbol of the city, its origins and its rich history and respect for members of all religious communities.
We will be recording our reflections on all we see, hear and experience before, during and after our two week travels through the state of Gujarat. I hope you will join us in our journey through our blog.