Samjho Toh Express: Friendship in diversity

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New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) At a time when intolerance is a much-debated subject in the country, Samjho Toh Express, a social campaign, is aiming at nurturing friendship beyond labels and borders.

ComMutiny – The Youth Collective (CYC), a group of like-minded professionals from diverse organizations who have been passionately working with young people — is behind the initiative.

“Samjho Toh Express is a national-level campaign that looks to promote friendship beyond labels of gender, caste, class, ethnicity etc and to encourage young people to forge bonds with those different from them – perhaps the only real way to derail intolerance and promote respect for diversity, instead of fear or hatred,” CYC Convenor Ashraf Patel told IANS.

The message of the campaign lies in its name – Samjho Toh Express – understand and express.

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“On this journey, young people from different backgrounds come together, share and discuss who they are and their perception of ‘the other’. They make new friends and embark on a beautiful journey of getting to know someone they have never interacted deeply with before.

“The result is, a better understanding of themselves, of their friends who are so different and yet so similar, and a first-hand experience of the richness and depth that inclusion adds to our lives,” he added.

So far, Samjho Toh Express has taken 350 young people across 14 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Assam, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, New Delhi and Maharashtra, with 21 CYC Forum members, reaching 5000 people on an experiential journey. This Express has been travelling for over nine months.

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The campaign started in November 2015 and will be spread over three years. It includes three steps: Friendship Junction Event, Friendship Track (Journey) and Manzil Event.

The Friendship Junction Event entails participants to try to internalise the importance of understanding the ‘other’ and reflect on the stereotypes they have about the ‘other’. They will make new cross-border friends and these new friends will sign up for the journey to explore each other at a deeper level.

Friendship Track (Journey) will enable new friends to meet and explore different identities with each other. New friends will be doing various activities together like visiting each other’s house, having a meal together, doing an action project together, going for a heritage walk or skill sharing.

It will all culminate into a Manzil Event, where friends from previous events will come together and share the experience of their journey through an activity.

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