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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 40, New Delhi, September 26, 2015

Threat to our Pluralist Ethos

Monday 28 September 2015, by SC


The arrest of Sameer Vishnu Gaikwad, a “full-time” member of the radical Hindu organisation, Sanatan Sanstha, by the Kolhapur Police on September 16 in connection with the murder of CPI leader and rationalist thinker, Govind Pansare, has by now helped the police of find a link between the killings of Pansare last February and rationalist leader Narendra Dabholkar (an anti-superstition crusader whom Pansare acknowledged as his mentor) in 2013. This was suspected for long but now, it appears, hard evidence to that effect has been found. Such acts, springing from religious intolerance, have assumed an ominous character with the attack on leading Kannada scholar M.M. Kalburgi last month that resulted in his death. At the same time, one of Kalburgi’s colleagues, K.S. Bhagwan, has been openly threatened with the same consequence.

While the reaction from artists and intellectuals to such extreme intolerant actions has been on expected lines—Hindi writer Udya Prakash has returned his Sahitya Akademi award as a mark of protest against Kalburgi’s assassination—the response of the government at the Centre, which becomes over-active in pushng forward the Hindutva agenda and raising the temperature in its war of words with Pakistan, has been by and large muted. This raises a serious question: would the authorities in power eventually allow the investigations into such killings to reach their conclusion?

This question cannot be shoved under the carpet. For at stake is the fate of our Republic. The anti-secular, sectarian and communal proclivities of the powers that be are becoming increasingly clear with every passing day. The Union Minister of Culture’s ludicrous statement, while paying tribute to our former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and subsequent utterances magnify the threat to our pluralist ethos we are currently facing. Needless to underline, this has a direct bearing on our democratic functioning.

At the risk of repetition one is compelled to once again underscore what was highlighted in these columns just a week ago:

The attacks on rationalists are a direct fallout of the coming to power of a resurgent BJP led by Narendra Modi with the RSS’ full blessings. As Hindu communal assaults on institutions like the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library intensify (alongside banning of stamps bearing the images of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi because of their transparently secular credentials) and onslaughts on rationalists like Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi acquire a vicious character, there is no option for secular democrats of all hues but to unite and bestir themselves to resist with all their strength the pernicious attempts underway to alter the secular, democratic, pluralist face of India.

Indeed the situation is turning from bad to worse. We can no longer ignore the danger. If we continue to do so, it will be at our peril.

September 21 S.C.