|The 1857 Siege of Lucknow, as seen by Thomas Jones Barker|
Several civil society organizations, in alliance with opposition parties, such as Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, the two Communist parties, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Janata Dal (United) are likely to come together for a show of unity against saffornization on May 10 in Lucknow to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the First War of Indian Independence of 1857.
The decision of the programme, likely to begin on May 5, culminating into a rally on May 10, was taken recently at a civil society meeting in Delhi, where activists agreed that it was necessary to break the alleged apathy towards the manner in which hardline Hindutva votaries are taking over reins of power in the country, as seen in Uttar Pradesh slipping in the hands of Yogi Adityanath.
The meeting decided, to quote one of the participants, to “give a clarion call that recalls the glorious days of the First War of Indian Independence and reaffirms resolve to fight to preserve and save India and Indians and the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution against oppression of all forms.”
Prominent persons who participated in the meeting, which took place after holding consultations with political leaders, included well-known intellectuals and social activists Apoorvanand, Harsh Mander, social activists Jaya Sharma, Sehba Farooqui, Maimoonah Mollah, MJ Vijayan, Avijit, Rajeswari Raina, Madhuresh Kumar, Zakir Husain, Shabnam Hashmi, and others.
The meeting was told that top social activist Teesta Setalvad has already held discussions with civil society activists regarding planning of the programme, which would be called “Lucknow Chalo”, in different cities, including Lucknow, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Patna, Saharanpur, Kolkata, etc.
The political leaders contacted included Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Sitaram Yechury (CPM), Ahmed Patel and Raj Babbar (Congress), Sudhindra Bhadoria (BSP) and Ghanshyam Tiwari (SP), and Manoj Jha (RJD). While CPM, JDU, RJD and Congress agreed to participate, SP and BSP said they would get back after talking to their leaders.
Setalvad separately held consultations with civil society organizations such as Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan, National Alliance of People’s Movements, National Committee on Dalit Human Rights, Saajhi Duniya, Uttar Pradesh Jan Manch, Bana Rahe Banaras, Savitribai Phule Samiti, National Trade Union of India, Quraishi Jamaat, Safai Karamchari Union, and others.
The programme in Lucknow is likely to begin on May 5, and would include seminars and cultural events on issues such as including defence of rights, breaking the silence, silence of the majority community, attack on Muslims, attack on the rule of law, subjugation of minorities, attacking young couples, attack on the idea of India, freedom of speech, constitution, democracy, and women.
During the meeting, Apoorvanand, professor of Hindi literature at the Delhi University, said, “We must say loudly that Muslims are being attacked and it’s not acceptable. Participation of Muslim groups is a must.”
Harsh Mandar, bureaucrat-turned-activist, added, “There is silence of the majority, some are with them, some apathetic and some afraid, and majority must break this silence.”
Farmers’ leader Vijayan said the focus should be to Talibanisation of India, with emphasis on how the RSS wants to break and divide India.” The meeting decided that there should be gathering on the last day, May 9, with the participation of 5,000 people, as it is “important to break the silence and atmosphere of fear.”
The slogans discussed sought to address issues such as how “goon squads were taking law unto their own hands, killing in the name of what one eats and what one wears; lynching fellow Indians because of what they trade and eat; and attacking young men and women because they choose to be friends, or enter into relationships”, said a source.
It was decided that the Lucknow programme would pledge “resolved to ensure that there is justice for all, social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, faith, belief and worship; equality of status and opportunity; and above all to promote a sense of fraternity that assures the dignity of the individual.”