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Nirmala Deshpande

“For the media peace is no news” says Gandhian and
Peace Activist Nirmala Deshpande

Washington DC, August 23, 2003. Nirmala Deshpande, a well known disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and an eminent social worker visiting Washington DC for the past two days said that the Peace movement in different parts of the world including the United States in recent times had inspired her deeply. Ms. Deshpande asked the media, not to underestimate the potential of such movements to mobilize support, by influencing the minds and hearts of the general public. Ms Deshpande said that unfortunately “for the media peace is no news”. The media was only interested when there was conflict, violence and war.  She was speaking to the members of the Washington media and representatives of NGOs. She was introduced by John Prabhudoss, the Executive Director of the Policy Institute for Religion and State.

In a community reception tonight hosted by the Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI) Ms Deshpande said that the Peace movement in the Kashmir valley had received significant support from all sections of the population including the young generation. On her several visits to Pakistan she had received strong expressions of support from the people of Pakistan for her efforts at Indo-Pak amity. The slogan that had been used against the violence was “Goli nahin boli chaiye” (Not bullets but dialogue).  The reception was attended by many Indian Americans who say that the world needs to know not all Indian Americans are pro-Hindutva.  The participants said that the silent majority of the Indian Americans are very troubled by the damage the Hindutva forces are causing in India and in the US to the social fabric.

Ms. Nirmala Deshpande with Dr. John Akery (save Tibet), Dr. Sein Win (NDCGB) and friends at PIFRAS office

Speaking about the religious violence that took place in the Indian state of Gujarat last year, Ms Deshpande charged that the state government of Gujarat was responsible for the death and devastation of thousands of innocent people. She said, elected government officials belonging to certain groups were directly involved in the massacre of non-Hindus while the central government in Delhi chose not to act against the Gujarat government. She further said that fear and hurt among the religious minorities still prevail. She is afraid that the victims of the violence would not get justice if the tactics of the present government continued. She said the police often refused even to register cases against the perpetrators of violence.  Despite some efforts by NGOs at rehabilitation, normalcy was far from being restored. On being asked about the reported flow of funds from sections of the Indian Diaspora community in the US to groups in India fomenting religious hatred, she said, ‘in her visit to various cities in the US she was speaking to the Indian community on such problems’. Many contributors here were unaware of the purposes for which their contributions were actually being used.

Ms Deshpande who was hosted in Washington DC by the Policy Institute for Religion and State (PIFRAS) along with the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) and other groups on Friday, met with officials at the State Department, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the staff members of the influential India Caucus on the Capitol Hill.

Nirmala Deshpande Addressing a Press Conference

She mentioned in the press conference on Friday that she had organized Peace marches in support of the jailed Burmese leader Aung San Su Chi. She congratulated her for her perseverance and non-violent struggle she leads to establish a democratic state in Burma. Mr. Sein Win, the Prime Minister of National Democratic Coalition Government of Burma in exile was also present in the press meet. 

Ms. Deshpande mentioned that HH the Dalai Lama came to inaugurate a ‘Conference on Faith’, organized at the Aligarh Muslim University.  She said such events are a sign that there is a strong willingness on the part of the majority of the population to try to understand each other and respect each other’s faiths. This she said was one of the strong desires Mahatma Gandhi wanted to see practiced in his country.  The President of the International Campaign for Tibet Mr. John Ackerly met Ms. Deshpande personally to convey his appreciation.



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