Dr. Mallika Sarabhai Speaks at Stanford University about Communal Harmony and the Situation in Gujarat

Stanford, CA, October 10, 2004

Stanford, CA, October 10, 2004–In her first public appearance in the United States since facing the ire of the Gujarat authorities for her outspoken stand against the Gujarat pogroms, Dr. Mallika Sarabhai spoke to a Bay Area audience about Communal Harmony and the Role of Civil Society, and the personal consequences of taking a principled stand against injustice. In a Sunday morning talk on the campus of Stanford University, Dr. Sarabhai, renowned danseuse and social activist from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, spoke on a range of issues, including her family’s unique tradition of activism side-by-side with their major role in the development of Gujarat; her father’s contributions to India’s space program; about Darpana Academy’s approach of using the medium of arts not merely as entertainment but as a way of educating the public on a range of relevant social issues; her work over the years on behalf of marginalized peoples from all communities, which pitted her against the authorities long before the 2002 violence; and her views on women’s rights and her support for the idea of a uniform civil code..

In answer to questions, she elaborated on the official sanctions and threats that she and her academy have been facing since she filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Indian Supreme Court challenging the State’s treatment of the victims of the 2002 pogroms, and the latest situation with regard to the frivolous lawsuits brought against her—including a complaint from a short-term student accusing her of “reneging” on a promise to aid her in illegally migrating to the United States. She spoke of how a state, which had been saying that there were no public prosecutors available to try the riot cases, had assigned two of its senior-most public prosecutors to handle her case. She called the Indian Supreme Court “a beacon of hope” for India, thanks to whose intervention the Gujarat authorities were compelled to revoke the ban on her travel, allowing her to fulfill her dance and lecture obligations while officially still on bail. She said that nothing much had changed in Gujarat even though the government at the center had changed, and it was unlikely to change as long as money keeps pouring in from well-meaning wealthy Gujaratis from US and UK.

Reminding the audience that the 9th standard textbook in Gujarat still extols Hitler as a great hero of Europe, she said, “There are times and this is one of those times, where we cannot afford to remain quiet…It’s not about comfort levels anymore. There are things which go beyond any sense of human decency.”

The unique event was organized by Promise of India and Stanford’s Asian Religions and Cultures Initiative, and co-sponsored by Asha for Education Bay Area Chapters, Association for India’s Development (AID) Bay Area Chapter, Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), India Community Center (ICC), India Literacy Project (ILP), Indian Muslim Council (IMC), and Indians for Collective Action (ICA), all of whom are signatories of the Promise of India Appeal.

Earlier in the week, Dr. Sarabhai and her colleague Ms. Dakhsa Mashruwala were introduced to art lovers in San Francisco at the Asian Art Museum by the Consul General of India Shri H.H. S.Viswanathan, where they demonstrated the nuances of difference schools of Indian classical dance to the delight of the crowd. Dr. Mallika Sarabhai was in the Bay Area to start a six-city tour of the Unites States of her dance program, An idea named Meera, at Foothill College, Lo Altos Hills, where she received the ICA Honor Award 2004 “in recognition of her selfless service to India, the Arts, Education and Communal Harmony.”

For further information on Dr. Mallika Sarabhai’s tour of the U.S., please contact Raju Rajagopal at communal_harmony@yahoo.com. For further information on the Promise of India coalition, please log on to https:\\www.PromiseOfindia.org

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