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

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.