Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies, New Delhi, organized a seminar on 'Harmony perspective of Life' (Samanvay: Jeevan kaa Drishtikon), at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, on 05 September 2015. Distinguished social scientist Prof. T.K. Oommen, Professor Emeritus, Jahaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, delivered the keynote address. Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar, Former Secretary, National Foundation for Communal Harmony, New Delhi, presided over the session. Prof. KTS Sarao, Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi, and Prof. Surendra Pathak, Head, Department of Value Education, IASE University, Rajasthan, were other speakers of the day.
Dr MD Thomas, Founder Director of IHPS, remembered to the audience the multi-pronged importance of the day and invited them to salute Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (Birthday), Mother Theresa (Death Anniversary), Teachers (Teachers' Day) and Shree Krishna (Janmaashthami). He also requested them to draw inspiration from them to contribute one's mite to make a country and society that is better than what it is today.
In his opening address, Dr Thomas clarified the concept of harmony and distinguished between the constructive and disruptive forces that make social life harmonious or disharmonious. He portrayed a brief sketch of the diverse sectors of the Indian society where disharmony blatantly persists. He pointed out that development of India has to include all strata of the society, with a preferential concern for the disadvantagedand the marginalized. India is yet to learn the culture of living with differences as well as to conduct an existence in togetherness, like different parts of the same body and different colours of the rainbow, he observed.
Delivering the keynote address, Prof. TK Oommen defined harmony as 'the quality of forming a pleasing combination of things or relationships'. Since harmony is not inherent in the society and there is insufficient cooperation among elements of the society, namely unity, multiplicity and process, one has to exert to create harmony in social life. He underlined the fact that societies are living agencies beyond the life span and that societies have to keep happening and emerging. He discussed three areas of harmony in the society, such as between individuals, individuals and groups and humanity and nation. Making reference to Arushi and Sheena cases under question, where even the mother-daughter relation is perverted, he affirmed that family has to be maintained as the most sacred place of harmony. Highlighting the stratified, heterogeneous and hierarchical forms of violence in the society, he made a clarion call to the stakeholders of the society to place the highest importance on dignity, equity and security of human beings, supported by affirmative action wherever required.
Responding to the questions from the floor, Prof. Oommen reiterated the forms of structural disharmony as economic, political and cultural and suggested reducing material disparity, decentralizing political power from the privileged sections to include the non-privileged ones and treating all cultures equally rather than a single culture approach to social life. Equality has to be obtained without surrendering one's own identity. Pluralism is an attitude of response to the fact of plurality or diversity in the society, in terms of languages, cultures, ideologies, and the like. The mission of establishing social harmony has to travel the route of pluralism and equality, in a preferential way, he added.
Prof. KTS Sarao, stated that the market-based and global society of today has a higher content of greed and lust, which encourage violence. Violence can be avoided only when everyone has access to resources. Theselfish system perpetuated by the humans need to be improved and respect has to be paid to human beings. Wastefulness and competition with others have to be avoided as they contribute to disharmony. Distributing the resources to maximum number of people is the way to foster harmony in the society. In response to a question, Prof. Serao suggested meeting the basic needs of the marginalized sections as a way out from disharmony and conflict.
Prof. Surendra Pathak said that there is an innate harmony in the entire creation and there is a natural music in life. Recognizing this reality is the beginning of promoting harmony in social life. Highlightingthe dynamics of interaction and inter-relation between entities is required for promoting unity and balance in life. He emphasized harmony as the existential necessity of a life that is worth the while.
Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar struck the note of UNESCO’s motto 'bridges are to be made in the minds of man', as war also is fought in the minds of man. Education, dialogue and development are the three factors that facilitate this process, he added. Development has to be inclusive. That will help reduce terrorism and communal violence. Deprivation of the underprivileged creates disharmony. A good lesson has to be learnt from the developed countries and focus has to be placed on the development of the deprived sections, on a priority basis. While responding to a question, Ambassador Ashok insisted that diversity has to be accepted and celebrated. The stakeholders of the society, academicians, political leaders and religious leaders, have to come together to chalk out a bottom up strategy to reduce disparity.
Dr Rajesh Kumar, Professor of English at Motilal Nehru College, Delhi University, and Coordinator of the seminar, proficiently anchored the seminar, introduced the speakers and proposed vote of thanks to one andall. The dignitaries were welcomed with a shawl at the beginning of the session and were presented mementos after their presentations. The discussion that followed raised diverse queries as well as views by scholars, thinkers and activists seated off the dais. The seminar was attended by intellectuals, well-wishers and those committed to cross-cultural perspectives and social harmony hailing from all communities, approximately 80 in number. The seminar commenced at 11.00 hours and concluded at 13.30 hours, followed by lunch.