This profile was prepared when Andreas D'Souza was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
India's independence was scarred by a cataclysm of religious hatred, killing, and the two-way flight of millions of refugees. Periodically, this fever recurs on a large scale, most recently in 1990. Each eruption destroys countless lives and hopes, and leaves the country deeply riven.Andreas, responding to the 1990 terror in Hyderabad, launched a program designed to build community level antidotes to such contagions when they sweep through the streets like a sudden sandstorm. He invites respected young leaders from nearby neighborhoods to joint training, typically in free space in a neighborhood hotel. They learn how to spot and shoot down false inflammatory rumors before they can set the community afire. There is usually no time for any outside force, be it government or Gandhian, to respond. Even if there were, they would not know the community nervous system well enough to know quickly where or how to intervene efficiently.At his training, Andreas does more than teach tactics. He tries to get leaders of one faith to learn at least a little about the others, both to reduce these leaders' own stereotypes and to arm them to explain into perspective common sources of misunderstanding.As important, these sessions try to get the leaders to know and respect one another. Such ties, especially nurtured over time, open trust lines of communications across the chasms of fear that suddenly yawn open when intercommunity tensions start building.