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Sabrang

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November 26, 2015; Constitution Day

Through the mid 1980s until the early 1990s virulent rightwing majoritarian organisations built up the volatile communal climate which culminated in the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. This movement was speared by an aggressive politics that targeted India’s minorities, both physically and through a distorted public metaphor. The Shiv Sena-led anti-Muslim pogrom in Bombay (now Mumbai) was accompanied by widely sanctioned hate speech that in fact set standards of a new national norm.

In response to the concerted campaign to transform secular democratic India into a Hindu Rashtra, we the undersigned quit our jobs in the mainstream media to channelise our professional skills in fighting the cancer of divisive politics. The launch of a monthly journal, Communalism Combat in 1993 was an outcome of that effort.

It was our conviction then, as it is now, that a free media cannot be value neutral. A free media is only conceivable in a society that values freedoms, can only flourish in a secular democratic environment. It follows that those with claims to being part of the free media must walk the talk. Far from being passive consumers, they must remain vigilant, passionate protectors and promoters of the fundamental freedoms and rights of all citizens guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. In that alone lies its own freedom.

From the very beginning and throughout its nearly 20-year long journey, Communalism Combat eschewed the he-said-she-said brand of ‘objective journalism’ and remained a ‘partisan’ journal.

Partisan, in favour of principles and values enshrined in the Constitution of India and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): secularism, democracy, non-discrimination and equal opportunities, equality before law and equal protection of law, freedom of speech and conscience, celebration of diversity and pluralism, communal harmony.

Partisan, opposed to the politics of prejudice, discrimination, hatred and violence, religious intolerance and extremism, divisiveness, communal discord. The journal did not oppose religion per se but the manipulation of religious sentiments for political ends. At the same time it maintained that religious beliefs and practices in conflict with ideals of fundamental freedoms and rights must be open to critical review and reform.

Never indulgent towards communalism of any hue, Communalism Combat campaigned against majority and minority communalism, caste and gender discrimination with equal fervor. In particular, it functioned as an ever-vigilant watchdog against spreading communal virus. While most of the mainline media in India was (and remains) content with episodic reportage, between 1997-98 and 2002, Communalism Combat published five cover stories and several special reports alerting society and state functionaries about the systematic build-up to the genocidal targeting of Gujarat’s Muslims in 2002.

Communalism Combat stood for and defended the rights of all religious minorities, including Kashmiri Pandits, whether in India or elsewhere in the sub-continent. Recognising that communalism is a malady afflicting all of South Asia, throughout its two-decade existence the journal frequently highlighted the plight of and atrocities against religious minorities – Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Ahmediayas – in neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka. It was the first Indian publication to focus on the ominous rise of the Taliban in the 1990s. Hell on Earth was the cover story of the journal in November 1998, long before the Taliban had committed the sacriligeous act of destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas. By late 1998, it had made life a living hell for Afghan women.

Partisan though it unashamedly was defending certain core values and principles Communalism Combat maintained a high standard of professional integrity and journalistic ethics. A journal with limited circulation but wide reach, Communalism Combat gained national and international recognition and awards from the very first years of its publication.

Financially, however, the journal lived precariously throughout. Committed to free and independent reportage and analysis, we had to stop publishing in late 2012. We are re-launching now, redoubled in our efforts, committed to our credo: Hate hurts, Harmony works.

In the growing climate of intolerance, and worse, now prevailing in India a forum such as Communalism Combat is needed more than ever before. With the launch of two mutually complementary online platforms (www.sabrangindia.in and www.peacemap.in) on this Constitution Day, November 26, 2015 we are re-affirming our commitment to the pledge that ‘We, the People of India’, gave ourselves soon after gaining Independence from colonial rule.

The content we have to offer is serious but the effort is to make it viewer/reader friendly. For the endless hours over many months devoted to the design and development of the two platforms by an amazing array of IT professionals who volunteered their expertise, our grateful thanks. A vast band of supporters and volunteers have put in hours of hard work with creative inputs. Through a particularly difficult period for us, this show of whole-hearted support has been both rewarding and sustaining.

Our many thanks also to highly regarded columnists, writers and social activists who have so generously offered to contribute editorial content for www.sabrangindia.in on a regular basis. Apart from the many new elements being introduced by us, through this platform viewers will be able to access the content earlier published over nearly 20 years in the old issues of Communalism Combat.

We count on your support and contributions to make this new venture viable.

Happy Constitution Day!

Teesta Setalvad
Co-editor

Javed Anand
Co-editor