If the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 brought us face to face with how violence can be systematically targeted against a community with the complicity of the State, our own work for peace and justice, and running a relief camp revealed the deep impact of such violence on women’s lives. Years later, the brutality unleashed on women in Mumbai and Gujarat compelled us to foreground the centrality of sexual violence in such conflicts. Another serious concern has been the militant mobilisation of women’s right wing politics. These increasingly communalised times are also resulting in a rise in fundamentalism within communities and a tightening of control on women in the name of ‘honour’.
In a country born in the throes of communal violence and continuing to live with ruptures based on religious/caste/ethnic identity, the struggles against communalism and communal violence have always been fought on a wide platform. And so it is that during the anti-Sikh violence, the 1992/93 violence following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Seelampur riots of 1993, the Gujarat carnage in 2002 and the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2008, we have responded jointly with other like-minded groups and individuals. As part of peace initiatives, fact-finding missions, relief efforts, and endeavours to evolve laws can comprehensively address the specificity of sexual violence in situations of conflict, Saheli’s work against communal violence goes on.
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