Samjho Toh: The movement from anger to empathy

Musaraf Ali Taking a session on Constitutional Rights and Duties at Millennial Vision School, Dimapur, Nagaland

Kohima, 20 August, 2022: I am a Bengali Muslim living in Nagaland. And yet I am called a “Bangladeshi” in my own country. 

Now what if, after facing such racism in your homeland, you are asked a simple question: “Is violence justified for the right cause?”What will your answer be? 

It's a high time where we as a responsible citizens should look after this matter going on through ages , racism is still one of the biggest threat we can ever face. 

Racism now has become very common and known among people and yet never stand against it. It's been a few times I've been witnessing the same , being called bangladeshi which is no more entertaining.

Despite of all those taunts thrown into north-eastern people isn't enough ? 

Moreover there are a certain section of people where they are totally aware of racism and stand for the people facing it . After facing racism I too meet certain section of people who helped me out and yes I would like to quote them as responsible citizens. 

A friend from organisation called Can Youth, told me about the Samjho Toh movement. He said that it focuses on learning to dialogue and co-exist with people who have diverse perspectives. Having written socio-political articles for The Print and The Quint as an intern and being the co-founder of North-East Nation (News), I felt this space for conversations would add value to both my career and knowledge base. 

As a young person, I have been grappling with multiple human identities and their contradictions for a very long time. Once I overheard people calling me a ‘Bangladeshi’ in a public bus in Assam and I almost got into an altercation with them. 

When in the first adda I heard people saying that violence in any form is not justified, it didn’t sit right with me; We started meeting every week to hold dialogues on visualising the world from different viewing points and how to co-exist peacefully and created a Fraternity Lab called YUVA. 

I never ever imagined that I would ever find a space where I won’t be identified just as a ‘Bangladeshi.’ When I shared about the frustration and anger that I felt for people who box me in that identity, all the lab members connected with me at a deeper level. ‘Empathy’ was no more just a word I had heard or read about. I felt it with my lab members. I have finally found a safe space, actually co-created it with others, where I could share my inner turmoil and act as a refuge for others. 

In this 8 months long journey, I have learned to be empathetic towards viewing points that see me differently. I have learned to understand the reasons behind their differing views and beliefs. This effort to understand them has made me less angry and frustrated. When you feel an overall sense of dis-location in the midst of the oppressive contemporary realities, you look for hope and respite. Yuva Fraternity Lab and its members have provided me with the much-needed respect and sense of community which was absent from my life.  

There is always a risk of conflicts leading to fallouts,when you are talking about sensitive topics like discriminatory practices and religious intolerance, However, much to my amazement, far from fallouts, we were actually able to cultivate friendships in spite of the difference in our opinions. We even co-created a song, ‘Milikena’ about our shared vision of India. How cool is that?

The Samjho Toh movement is not about creating imaginative solutions that will change the polarizing narratives that divide the world. It is about building our strength to accept dichotomies along with the will to co-exist. The Samjho Toh addas mirror our own judgements and prejudices and compel us to question our own actions and attitude towards others. 

By co-creating this space where we meet and interact with people from diverse faiths and ideologies, the Samjho Toh movement has enabled us to deep dive into multiple identities and create a shared experience for understanding them. 

My Samjho Toh Journey ends in September. But the movement lives on! As I report socio-political news from my community at Nagaland TV, I intend to take my learnings and experience from Samjho Toh towards practicing and promoting responsible journalism as I grow in my profession.

Report By: Istuti Chettri

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