Archive for October, 2015

Writers Vs. Righters: Threats of a Totalitarian State

October 24, 2015

Writers Vs. Righters : Threats of a Totalitarian State
Dr.H.S. Chandalia
Writers have expressed their serious concern over the growing intolerance in the society and the governments’ indifference towards the incidents of brutal violence and shameless arrogance shown by some organizations which are allies of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party. The brutal murders of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi have not been taken seriously by the Union government and the state has failed to give a message that the voice of reason will prevail and those who promote superstition, fundamentalism, communal hatred and religious fanaticism will not be spared. To make the matters worse the Union minister for culture Mahesh Sharma made a statement that if the writers don’t find the atmosphere congenial to writing they should stop writing. This is adding insult to injury. The spate of returning the Sahitya Academy Awards still continues and writers from Rajasthan including poet Nand Bhardwaj and Ambikadutt have also returned the awards. Among those who have returned the awards include noted authors like UdaiPrakash, Ashok Vajpayee, Kashi Nath Singh, Surjeet Patar, Prof. Ganesh Devi, Munavvar Rana, Krishna Sobti, Nayan Tara Sehgal, Shashi Deshpande and several other well known writers who have given their life for the cause of literature and are acclaimed not just in the country but also across national boundaries.
There is a group of writers like Narendra Kohli, Gyan Chaturvedi and some other non-descript names who find it a part of political propaganda. They also demonstrated against the writers who had returned their awards. In the demonstration they were bearing a saffron banner. This is evidence enough who is playing politics. They clearly project their right wing affiliation.The ruling NDA has tried to shy away from the real issues raised by those writers who have returned their awards. In order to deflect the debate they have tried to shoot personal questions on the loyalty of the writers. All the fifty odd writers cannot be dubbed as leftist writers. A writer is a writer who has his own vision of the world. He may be inclined towards a political ideology but he does not write with partisan interests. The real issues are violence on the basis of communal and caste hatred. The real issue is the atmosphere of fear and distrust being propagated by the state as well as non-state power centers. This has been underlined by the statements of the President of India also.
A common argument stated by those who have opposed the writers returning the awards is that Sahitya Academy is an autonomous institution and the return of awards is misdirected. It may be true in theory but the reality is not that simple. Governments have a say in the functioning of autonomous institutions. The worst example is the Universities which are said to be autonomous but it is an open secret that the Vice Chancellors are appointed on the basis of their political affiliations. The appointment of the Vice Chancellor of University of Rajasthan is a case in example in which case the VC does not fulfill the UGC norms and still has been appointed only because of his affiliation with the ruling party in the state. UGC had to make specific mention about it to the state government of Rajasthan. So is the case with Rajasthan Sahitya Academy. The former Chairperson of Rajasthan Sahitya Academy Ved Vyas was removed whenever Bhartiya Janta Party came to power in Rajasthan before the completion of his term.
Throwing of ink on Surendra Kulkarni in Mumbai and on J&K MLA Rashid in Delhi are but two examples of violent and shameless protests. Killing of Akhlak in Dadri was preceded by attacks on churches and hanging of chickens in front of Jain temples in Mumbai. There are more subtle ways of harassing people in BJP ruled states. Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani had announced 25 December as working day though it was Christmas Day. Central Universities were asked to observe as the birthday of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Similarly in Rajasthan the holiday on the occasion of Eidul Ajaha was cancelled and schools and colleges were ordered to hold blood donation camps to observe the birth anniversary of Deen Dayal Upadhyay. This is an example of the attitude of apathy towards minorities by the state.
The writers are able to foresee the emergence of a totalitarian state in the name of majority rule. The fear is floating in the air and those who want to speak are frightened. The most non-violent protest in the form of returning awards has been seen by the ruling alliance and their field organizations as anti- government and the organizations as RSS are demanding investigation against these writers. This is the real threat to the right to speech. Already the labour rights are in jeopardy and the trade Unions are facing a tough time. Mainstream media is governed by capitalist interest and market has emerged as the most powerful dictator which can make even the Union government helpless as has happened in the case of prices of pulses. Hooligans like Sakshi Maharaj , Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi make hysterical speeches and consume a lot of air time of the TV channels. These are the real issues which go unaddressed even as the ‘righters’ spread a hate campaign against the writers.


Writers’ Returning Awards is a Warning Bell for Democracy

October 13, 2015

Writers’ Returning Awards is a Warning Bell for Democracy
More than a dozen writers of the prominence of Nayantara Sehgal, Ashok Vajpayee and Uday Prakash have returned their awards in the last one month. Recently another Indian English novelist Shashi Deshpande resigned her position of member of the Governing Council of Sahitya Academy. All these writers have spent their life time in the pursuit of literature. They have been people of undoubted integrity and have earned repute by dint of their significant contribution to world of letters. An award is a sign of recognition for an artist and the decision to return an award would mean a serious thoughtful action which is compelled by a deep sense of social responsibility. They must have been disturbed by the things happening in the country and must have felt that the state has failed to ensure freedom of speech and expression. If the intelligentsia of a country feels like this it is a warning bell for democracy.
Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore had returned his Knighthood after the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre.Novelist and columnist Khushwant Singh had returned his Padma Award after the Operation Blue Star. The cold blooded murder of three rationalist writers and thinkers namely M.M. Kalburgi, a distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner and two rationalists , Narendra Dhabolkar and Govind Pansare, both anti-superstition activists, have been killed by assailants. Veeranna Madiwalar, T Satish Javare Gowda, Sangamesh Menasinakai, Hanumanth Haligeri, Shridevi V Aloor and Chidanand Sali were conferred the awards on November 22, 2011, at a function where Kalburgi was honoured with the prestigious NrupatungaPrashasti.

The absolute victory of right wing Bhartiya Janta Party has let lose the fundamentalist Hindutva forces all over the country. These organizations have been there all these years as well but did not have the courage to play so openly. Now that they have a favourable government and a Swayamsevak in the Prime Minister’s chair, they are scot free. The Gujarat massacre has been wiped from public memory by the sheer propaganda of the the ruling BJP at the level of the state and the Centre. Amit Shah , one of the prime accused , has been made the president of the ruling party while local political leaders including Maya Kodnani have been released on bail. The accused of the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin have not only been released on bail but restored in the police force as if they have been acquitted by the court.
Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally killed on the suspicion beef was cooked in his home. His son was also brutally attacked and is struggling for life. His other son is a soldier in Indian Air Force. The false self proclaimed nationalists and custodians of Hindutva did not respect the family of a soldier of Indian armed force. Last year several young men and women were harassed and attacked in Bangalore by the moral policing gangs of the Hindu outfits.
Famous artist Maqbool Fida Hussain’s exhibitions were attacked and he was so much harassed that he had to take asylum in other countries. Gazal Singer Gulam Ali’s scheduled programmes in Mumbai and Pune have been cancelled by the pressure created by Shiv Sena. Earlier Salman Rushdie was denied entry to the Jaipur Literature Festival, some two years ago.Mr. J.P. Singhal who is not even a Ph.D. and has not been a University Professor even for a day has been appointed the Vice Chancellor of Rajasthan University, Jaipur simply because he was an office bearer of a teachers’ organization affiliated with BJP.
All these are examples of political and cultural intolerance. They are signs of aggression and suppression of all voices of protest. In a recent lecture, India’s Vice-President, Dr. Hamid Ansari, stated that India’s Constitution promises all Indians “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.”The right to dissent is an integral part of this Constitutional guarantee. He found it necessary to do so because India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault.
Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva – whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle – are being marginalised, persecuted, or murdered. In all these cases, justice drags its feet. Nayantara Sahgal, in a statement issued on October 6, 2015 said, “In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award.”
Shashi Deshpande, author of several novels, short stories and essay collections and books for children, won the Sahitya Akademi award for her novel That Long Silence in 1990. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2009. While resigning her membership of the Governing Council of the Sahitya Academy, she expressed her disgust over the continued failure of the Sahitya Academy to denounce or criticize the impious killing of writers and citizens.

The level of the political campaigning in Bihar election is also an indicator of the level to which Indian politics has fallen. Use of sixteen helicopters by the ruling party and the abusive tirade over the leaders of opposition even by the Prime Minister suggests that the ruling saffron brigade perhaps doesn’t want to leave any space for the voices of dissent. If this is allowed to happen , the nation would be facing another emergency, this time unannounced but enforced by the self appointed custodians of moral and national values. Now is the need to rise up and unite to fight for the intellectual, artistic and creative freedom. Writers, poets, journalists and teachers have the biggest responsibility of preserving the secular , multicultural and plural fabric of Indian society and also to preserve the real freedom of media which matters. It is sad that the mainstream media has failed to take the cognizance of the writers’ returning their awards and resigning from prestigious positions due to callous indifference of the state and its agencies.