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NRIs' move for communal harmony

By K. Ramachandran

CHENNAI OCT. 27. Indians living abroad have launched an initiative here to raise people's consciousness about the dangers posed by communal discord and incitement and highlight the linkage among peace, harmony and development.

The coalition, "Promise of India" (POI), is supported by Indian-American non-profit organisations and hopes to aid groups working for communal harmony and developmental efforts here, according to Raju Rajagopal, Chair of the POI's steering committee.

The POI, launched this month, issued an appeal articulating the concerns of several sections of Indians. It asked the people to rededicate themselves to a democratic, secular, pluralistic and united India, condemn sectarian hatred and support efforts to bring in transparency to governance. It also asked them to work towards decriminalising politics and summoning the collective will and material resources to increase educational and developmental opportunities for all Indians, regardless of caste, faith, ethnicity or gender.

Organisations such as the Association for India's Development, the American India Foundation, Asha for Education, Coalition against Communalism, Coalition for Secular Democratic India, Develop in Peace, Indians for Collective Action, Indian Community Center, India Development Service, NRIs for Secular and Democratic India, PrajaNet, Silicon Valley Professionals Association and the IndUS Entrepreneurs have signed the appeal (available on the website www.promiseofindia.org) .

"Indians living abroad have been really concerned at happenings such as those in Gujarat and Kashmir. We felt the need for a broad platform for the so-called silent majority to speak up and for India's secular culture, the interdependence among different communities and aspects which can hopefully prevent sparks such as the Gujarat incidents in future," Mr. Raju Rajagopal said.

Activists, advocacy and grassroots organisations in the U.S working there and in India have lent their support. These organisations are looking at ways how non-resident Indians can support the efforts to promote peace and development in India.

Mr. Raju Rajagopal, who is now in India to garner support for this agenda, said he would like prominent Indian personalities such as sportspersons and film personalities to support the appeal.

To take the organisation's work to the next level, the POI wants to organise a one-day meet in January 2004 in New Delhi, a day or two ahead of the Government of India's Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on January 9, 10 and 11.

"Our meet will seek to link peace and development. For example, one session will deal with the work that grassroots organisations can do. Through other sessions, we can link peace and economic progress, where prominent industrialists will speak, link justice and Constitutional aspects, and a fourth that will see the link between communal harmony and peace like an inter-faith initiative... Our meet will be complementary to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet so that some dedicated NRIs can join in our effort," he added.

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