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Prof. Ram Puniyani, former professor of Biomedical Engineering at the IIT Mumbai recently visited University of Hyderabad (UoH) and gave a lecture as a part of the on-going Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Centre for Comparative Literature (CCL). Starting his lecture, Prof. Ram said that both the terms i.e. communalism and terrorism are the dominant phenomena of not only our country but of the entire South Asia today. He pointed out that sadly there there is a label of religion attached with both. He said neither of these terms i.e. communalism and terrorism has anything to do with the morality or values of any religion and he cited verses from the three distinct religions like “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, “Love thy neighbour” and “one whose neighbour sleeps empty stomach, the gates of Jannah will never open for him”. These terms are complementary to each other and hence these issues are not related with the morality of the religions rather with the identity which formed over the time. Further, he elaborated on the issue by saying that ‘Holy Books’ i.e. religious texts are reduced to the symbol of religions rather than focusing what is there in the content of these Holy Books.

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Later Prof. Ram tried to bring out the religious composition and syncretism of the Indian kings of different religions. He gave rare examples of Akbar, Shivaji and so on. He emphasized that the rise of communalism started with the British who divided India on communal grounds for their own benefit. He said no Muslim ruler took away any wealth out of the country while the British did. Further, he talked on the formation of Indian political parties and the current scenario. Students enjoyed his interactive and informative lecture and freely participated in the discussions. Few posters on communalism and violence were also displayed on the occasion. Exhibition of Prof. Puniyani’s books were also arranged.

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Prof. Ram Puniyani is a writer, activist and is associated with various secular initiatives and also has been part of different investigation reports on violation of human rights of minorities and of people’s tribunal which investigated the violation of rights of minorities in Orissa and examined the arrest of innocent Muslim youth after the blasts. He has been conducting workshops in different parts of the country on the themes related to, threats to democracy; the agenda of communal politics; and politics of terror. He wrote books like Second Assassination of Gandhi, Communal Politics: Facts versus Myths, Terrorism: Myth and Reality, Social Justice: Illustrated Primer and Fascism of Sangh Parivar etc. He is the recipient of Indira Gandhi National Integration Award 2006 and National Communal harmony Award 2007.

Prof. Ram Puniyani who took voluntary retirement from the IIT Mumbai to work on these issues has completely devoted himself in the preservation of democracy, communal harmony and deeply concerned about the issues related to human rights and society. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades. He is working for communal harmony and initiatives to oppose the rising tide of Fundamentalism in India. He has been spreading the message of peace and amity through lectures, publications, workshops and meetings and by travelling extensively to different parts of the country disseminating messages of secularism, pluralism and communal harmony.

By Abu Saleh, Ph.D. Scholar in the Centre for Comparative Literature

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