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India's fight against intolerance "shaping" amidst increasing infiltration of rightwing groups among communities

Cultural personalities felicitated at Gandhi Peace Foundation
By Our Representative
The national convention of 200 prominent citizens, held at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, has reached the conclusion the current “fight” against intolerance, begun by litterateurs and artistes who have returned their awards in protest, can succeed only when local-level communities begin asserting their rights.
Organized by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of mass organizations across Gujarat, well-known social activist Medha Patkar, expressing the views of the participants, said, this is particularly important because “the infiltration of right-wing groups has been increasing.”
“The climate of intolerance that writers and intellectuals have protested against is also felt by the youth in villages and cities, where the need is for drawing connections towards a new movement which can bring together different struggles in the country”, she insisted.
Organized under the banner “National Convention on Samaj – Sansaadhan – Samvidhan Bachao” (Save Society, Parliament, Constitution), the NAPM felicitated filmmakers, writers and cultural activists were felicitated. Social activist Prafulla Samantara, well-known academic Prof Arun Kumar, top educationist Anil Sadgopal and Patkar, among others, talked about “communal oppression, privatization of education, so called cultural cleansing”, an NAPM note said.
Those who spoke on the rising tide of “intolerance” included Manglesh Dabral (poet), Prof Chaman Lal (writer), Shriprakash (film maker), Atmajit Singh (writer), Tapan Bose (film maker), Satya Rai Nagpaul (film maker), and Rehman Abbas (writer) shared their views and reflections on and the reasons to start their fight for the same.
Dabral, pointing towards return of awards by several top cultural personalities, said, their was not a “not a manufactured revolt”, adding, he could see that the people in the country “are not happy and are living in times of crisis where the current government is supporting the corporates with suppression of people’s voices by spreading communalism.”
Sriprakash said that he decided to return his award as he saw the way the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students’ struggle was being “ignored and pushed to the wall.” He added, “The protest also showed the need to resist saffronization.”
Abbas spoke about how Urdu poetry has always been about love, not hate. “Intolerance is not connected in today’s time to any one religion or community. My book has faced the intolerance of my own community and being continuously threatened by fundamentalist forces, this is not new to us”, he declared.
Singh said that one of the worst things to happen to the Sikh community is asking them “about where they would like to go, remain in India or go to Pakistan.” He added “Seeing what is happening around me, I asked myself, after writing so many plays, is my voice irrelevant?”
He pointed out, “The highest numbers of people, who have given back the award, are from Punjab. This is because we have seen 1984.” Referring the Sahitya Akademi, whose awards were particularly returned in large numbers, he wondered, “How can an independent and autonomous body not respond when writers are getting killed? Our PM also will not talk about tolerance in India; he will only do it outside the country!”
Bose, who has made influential documentaries on on Bhopal Gas Tragedy and Bhagalpur blindings, observed that “religious fanaticism is now replaced by blind nationalism.” Chamanlal added, “I returned my award to make people realize that we are passing through difficult times.”

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