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PMO "tries to stop" civil society meet held in Gujarat Vidyapeeth to discuss erosion of Gandhian values

Justice Kurian Joseph, Gagan Sethi
By Our Representative
Did the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) try to stop a pre-arranged civil society meet at Gujarat University, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, held on the occasion of the 89th anniversary of Dandi march to highlight the importance of nonviolence at a time when the country is allegedly facing violent religious and caste divisions?
Organised by Delhi-based civil rights body India Inclusive, and called India Unites Convention on Nonviolence and Harmony, well-known human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi told the meet even as it was about to begin, "PMO rang up to say this meeting should not happen. It is not known what is there to be afraid of from such a small gathering." Hashmi named one of the organisers of the meet as the source of information about PMO.
Speaking on the occasion, former Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph regretted sharp erosion of values for which Gandhi stood for -- unity in diversity. Also pointing towards lack of respect for constitution, democracy and freedom of expression, he asserted that these are "critical moments" even for the Supreme Court, whose "independence is at stake."
Gagan Sethi, who heads well-known Gujarat-based non-profit organisation Janvikas, came down heavily on the civil society, saying, most of the voluntary organisations have become spineless non-government organizations -- doing only that work which government may not be interested in doing.
Asking civil society to learn from Gandhi, who encouraged voluntarily work, Sethi said, the focus should be on satyagraha. There should be sovereignty of the Constitution, not this or that religion, particularly when institutional violence is killing democracy, and the idea of India is being undermined.
Those who spoke on the occasion included former Planning Commission member Sayeda Hamid, Air Marshal (retired) Veer Narayan, senior editor with "The Wire" Arfa Khanum Sherwani, independent journalist Bhasha Singh, Gujarat-based Jesuit human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash and economist Hemant Shah.

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