The Optimist Citizen

A fundamental GAME to achieve a GOAL for communal peace and harmony

Siraj from Titagarh, West Bengal organised a friendly football, under ComMutiny – The Youth Collective’s Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project, with people from various religious and communal groups to create a bridge for a new dialogue of peace.

Football is a term that most of us might be familiar with. The sport is not only a global phenomenon but also carries with itself the sentiment of millions of individuals. Emotions hurl themselves with the players as they move between the two goalposts, striving hard to achieve a goal. Emotions run high, reactions come unfurling about and innumerable individuals from various countries and communities celebrate the sport together – as one. Sports have that effect on you. An effect of peace and harmony that brings people together. A similar effect happened in a small community in West Bengal under the ambit of young people learning about their fundamental rights and duties through a board game, and not through text books.

Siraj lives in Titagarh, West Bengal. Although, Titagarh is a cauldron for various communities, Siraj lives in a community that is completely Muslim. Now, what always bugged Siraj was that his community was always kept distinctly apart from other communities. The communal differences in Titagarh had been a sore in his eyes for long and the cure for this came in the form of Football. It was a part of the Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project – a nationwide initiative designed and anchored by ComMutiny – The Youth Collective (CYC), in collaboration with 22 organizations in 14 states, that is engaging more than 600 youngsters by making them live the Constitution for 5 weeks through various social action tasks. Now, the tasks are based on a board game that are to emulated in real life by Jagriks (Jagruk+Nagriks).

Siraj and his co-Jagrik Mohammed Ibrahim rolled the dice, chanced upon a Gold task focussing on Fundamental Duty No.4  that warranted them to organize a friendly football match with a diverse group consisting of individuals of different religions, castes and creed. “The area where I live is completely inhabited by Muslims and has a clear distinction with other Non-Muslim communities. And the various communities are always embroiled in some form of conflict, mostly over trivial matters. To bring them all on the same platform and make them play together as a team was a daunting proposition for me”, says Siraj.

But, Siraj reached out to young members of other communities and when they came on to the pitch for a game, it was magic. Not only Hindus and Muslims were a part, but also individuals from the Sikh community, Tamil speaking communities and Bengali speaking communities, of varying age groups, came together. “People forgot their communal identities and played together as only one community – Human beings. They patted, praised and hugged each other whenever there was a goal. Fought for each when there was a foul.  I was not witnessing a match; I was witnessing magic” says Siraj with an unparalleled happiness.

The match was a success but the discussion post match was nothing short of revelatory. “We discussed with them about what they thought about religion and their answers were shocking. Their understanding of religion was primarily based on physical appearances and the word of their local religious leader. Anyone with a crimson dot on his forehead was a Hindu and anyone with a skull cap and beard was a Muslim.” Says Siraj. “But a deeper penetration of the discussion brought out new facts. Most of the youngsters were confused about their own religion. They felt it just came their path as a way of life and they never really questioned it. Thus, a deeper bond with other’s religion was out of the question as they had a dilemma about their own” he adds.

These stark revelations also laid focus upon the constitutional literacy in these communities; Siraj, Mohammed Ibrahim and all the players of the match understood one issue that is we all have a Constitutional right to practise any religion that we want, but it is also our fundamental duty to respect and understand the religious choices of others.

“I saw how a slightly different variation in a sport can teach us not only about our constitutional rights and duties, but also preach us a practical lesson in peace and harmony. These diverse communities of Titagarh might bicker over trivial issues, but when they are on the field they stand as one. One community, one nation.” Added a proud Siraj.

Siraj did this task of Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project with the help of West Bengal based organisation Prantakatha which focuses on youth active citizenship development. As a matter of fact, Siraj and Mohammed Ibrahim Alam’s efforts would be recognised and felicitated by the Samvidhan Live! The Jagrik Project’s team on 24th January 2018 at the Constitution Club of India in New Delhi.

Tuhin Sen | TOC

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