Skip to main content

Secular activists, writers meet at Dandi to pledge, fight against continued atmosphere of intolerance in India

PEN International's Salil Tripathi
with Rajmohan Gandhi at Navsari
By Our Representative
It was the first secular intellectual gathering in decades in Gujarat. The spot was Dandi in Gujarat, where Mahatma Gandhi observed his famous Salt Satyagraha in 1930. Around 500 writers, artistes and activists from across the country gathered to unite and speak out against the rise of communalism in the country, and support Gandhian values.
The day was January 30, when Gandhi was martyred. The speakers included Rajmohan Gandhi, writer and grandson of the Mahatma; Rakesh Shukla, leader of the recent agitation of the students of the Film and Televesion Institute of India, Pune; Chaman Lal, a left-wing scholar; and top documentary film maker Anand Parwardhan.
Also present were Ria Vithasha and Muddu Thirthahalli, the teenaged writers who returned their Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award in protest against intolerance; Salil Tripathi, London-based writer with free speech forum PEN International; Atul Pethe, theatre director and actor; top artist Ghulam Mohammad Shaikh; and senior Gujarat-based Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan.
The meet did not go without hiccups. The state BJP administration tried to create hurdles, sources said, as could be seen from the organizers being forced to postpone the participants’ march to the satyagraha site from early morning to mid-day. In fact, after the police stopped the writers while they were on way to Dandi, they met at the auditorium of Navsari Agriculture University.
While the meeting was part of the project of Sarva Bhasha Samvad, a dialogue between writers of different languages, the speakers spoke about how it was necessary today to follow Gandhiji more than ever before, as he showed the way on how to fearlessly fight the British (Rajmohan Gandhi), and how the Hindutva forces, who were looked down upon by the Indian people in the 1940s, had grown to come to seize power, had seized power (Rajesh Shukla).
Leftist scholar Chaman Lal admitted that though “he totally disagreed with some ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, one worked with such extraordinary effort to work for peace and understanding”, and Anand Patwardhan traced the history of communal elements since the time of their links with the fascists in  Europe in the thirties.
Even as talking about Gandhiji's alt march, Martin Macwan recalled the importance Kalaram Temple entry satyagraha at Nashik, begun by Dr BR Ambedkar on the same day as the Salt Satyagraha. Macwan also spoke in detail about what led to young Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide and the rule of caste on the minds of Indian society.
Vidyadhar Date, a senior journalist-activist, who attended the meet, said, “It was a unique experience to be on the site of the satyagraha on a day when the Mahatma was assassinated by communal elements. Such coming together out of a sense of belonging, togetherness for the cause of secularism and human values is particularly important because on this day elsewhere some elements were seeking to build a statue to Nathuram Godse, Gandhiji’s killer, and hail him as a hero.”
“Writers had come together, travelling at their own expense, without corporate sponsorship, speakers pointed towards how the recent Jaipur literary festival – which devoted to the theme of freedom of expression – failed to condemn the judicial trial to which Magsasay award winning writer Arundhati Roy, who had spoken out in defence of Prof GN Saibaba for the latter’s alleged Naxalite links”, Date said in a recent report.
The participants – who included relatives of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi who were killed for holding rationalist views – paid rich tributes to Rohith Vemula, the Dalit scholar of the University of Hyderabad, who committed suicide recently because of caste discrimination.
Organised by well-known Gujarat-based linguist Ganesh Devy, a prominent academic who had returned his Sahitya Akademi Award, the march was the culmination of a movement against the atmosphere of intolerance prevailing in the country.

Comments

TRENDING

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Attack on Gaza: Western media 'went out of the way' to obscure, protect perpetrators

By Sonali Kolhatkar*  Israeli forces killed more than a hundred Palestinians and wounded more than 700 on February 29, 2024 during a distribution of food aid in Gaza city, pushing the Palestinian death toll to 30,000 since October 7, 2023. The food aid massacre was straightforward in its deadliness as armed Israeli forces aimed weapons at desperate, hungry Palestinian civilians and killed many of them. It was also plausible within the context of who has firepower and who doesn’t, and wholly consistent with Israeli atrocities, especially those committed since October 7, 2023.

Living standards in 'model' Gujarat worse than major states: Govt of India document

By Rajiv Shah  Amidst raging controversy over whether the latest Government of India’s “Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23 Fact Sheet: August 2022-July 2023” suggests that India’s poverty levels are actually down to 4.5 to 5%  during the decade-long Narendra Modi rule, a state-wise breakup in the 27-page document shows that “model” Gujarat’s average consumption expenditure is far below most of the so-called developed states.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Not livable in summer, Chitrakut PM-Awas houses 'push' tribals in moneylender trap

By Bharat Dogra*  Those who are in-charge of implementing the PM-Awas scheme of rural housing can rightly take pride in what has been achieved in Dafai hamlet (Karvi block, Chitrakut district, Uttar Pradesh). All the Kol tribal families here are extremely poor and vulnerable. In a rare achievement, almost all of them have received housing assistance under PM Awas. 

Stressing on standardisation, efficiency, capitalists 'intensify' workers' exploitation

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The productivist ideology lies at the core of the profit-making pyramid of capitalism. It perpetuates a relentless cycle characterized by busy schedules, workplace tension, an imbalance in work-life equilibrium, and a pervasive sense of alienation. 

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Development? This tribal hamlet in Chitrakut has no toilets, no electricity connections yet

By Bharat Dogra*  As we moved away from the starting point of the Bundelkhand Expressway and a famous pilgrimage site into a side-road, the hills of Chitrakut here appeared to be more and more isolated. Another turn, and we appeared to have reached almost a dead-end. However it is here that over 80 households of the Kol tribal community have been living for a long time.

WTO 'loses legitimacy': CSOs shut out of normal participation in MC13 at Abu Dhabi

By Deborah James  Given unprecedented repression of participants, the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at Abu Dhabi should not continue until historical and international standards and human rights for participation in global governance are restored.