Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies, Dwarka, New Delhi, was launched by Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, at Carmel Convent School Auditorium, Malcha Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, on 21 March 2015, at 16.00 hours. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan was Chief Guest of the programme and performed the launching ceremony by clicking a short power point presentation. The launch programme was coupled with a symposium on 'Social Harmony and Its Dimensions', which was addressed in three parts – Education and Social Harmony, Religion and Social Harmony and Human Rights and Social Harmony.
Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, while delivering his address on 'Human Rights and Social Harmony', expressed anguish and shame over the violence and the terrorist attacks that are rampant in India and the world over. Violation of human rights, failure to make inclusive growth and inability to tolerate others' opinions contribute to a culture of violence. Involvement of educated people in violence is a situation of derailment of education, which has to once again take its track of character-building. He reiterated the need of an institute that researches into the dynamics of promoting social cohesion, especially when unsocial elements are disturbing the balance of the society. He wished the newly launched institute to be a peace-keeping force in the society.
Prof. Tasneem Meenai, Director, Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, spoke as Guest of Honour on 'Education and Social Harmony'. She observed that violence towards the other and accepting violence have become intrinsically the order of the day. The destructive nature of violence has to be condemned. Education is and has to be the rightful means for promoting peace and harmony. Therefore, peace education has to be inculcated into the curriculum. A paradigm shift is required in the system of education for eliminating the violence on oneself and on others and for inventing peace in the entire process. Only when education fosters and sustains a culture of peace and only when education is basically geared towards life, the dream of personal and societal wellbeing, living in harmony and making a better world can be realized.
Prof. Manoj Kumar Jha, Head, Department of Social Work, University of Delhi, addressed the audience as Guest of Honour on 'Religion and Social Harmony'. He regretted that the disengagement of the elite with religion resulted in a state of affairs where much of the religious space is consumed by people who have no clear idea about religion, neither text nor context. The process of reconciliation has to involve addressing the issue of justice, he added. Considering Constitution as the sacred text would mean seeing people from the perspective of citizenry than the spectacle of religion. Besides, the political overtones of religion need to be given due consideration, so that religion can really address social issues and be part of the solution than of the problem.
Dr Jetti Oliver, Chancellor, SHIATS University, Allahabad, presided over the meeting and he, in his presidential address, made a clarion call to be 'rainbow people', in line with the emblem of the new institute. Considering the deficit of harmony, understanding, mutual trust and peace in the land of Mahatma, non-violence, Ramrajya and the gospel of loving the neighbor, he expressed grief over the unfortunate state of going astray from the basic ideals of religion. He insisted on breaking the culture of silence and attempting to tackle issues, even though they may make one unpopular. He presented a three-point solution to the awkward predicament of the country – supporting courage to resist, fostering agreements and inspiring hope. He complimented the noble initiative of the institute and wished the stakeholders high-quality results.
In the beginning Dr M.D. Thomas, Chairman and Director, Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies, presented the objective and focus of the institute as research on inter-community relations and social harmony, along with ground-based engagements for making the society more harmonious and peaceful. The institute is a collective undertaking of scholars from diverse religious communities who are committed to the above cause, he added. He highlighted the aims and objects of the institute and elaborated its dynamics, schemes, programmes and activities. Introducing the theme of the symposium, he highlighted the need of building a more harmonious country, in the wake of the divisive forces hysterically trying to meddle with harmony in social life. He introduced the dignitaries of the day and welcomed them, as well.
Prof. Shashi Tiwari, Former Professor of Sanskrit, University of Delhi, proficiently anchored the symposium and proposed vote of thanks. The meeting took off with a very meaningful and motivating mangal geet on the basics of social harmony, titled 'bhalaa kisee kaa kar na sako to'. Lighting the harmony lamp jointly by the dignitaries followed. The meeting came to an end by 18.00 hours. The programme was attended by several prominent persons from all communities, approximately 100 people in total. The launch of the new institute was appreciated by one and all and several participants with pleasure opted to be part of the same as 'Members of the Associate Council'.