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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 44 New Delhi October 24, 2015

The Engulfing Darkness

Saturday 24 October 2015

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

As the season of festivals and lights comes, darkness has engulfed the literary and cultural spheres of the country. Growing religious intolerance and intolerance of thoughts and opinions that do not conform to the ‘ideology’ of the powers that be is forcing one litterateur after another to return the Sahitya Akademi awards as a mark of protest against the ’onslaught on freedom of expression` and ‘rising intolerance’.

Instead of pausing and pondering over the peaceful and democratic protest of the literati, the rulers are showing more arrogance and becoming more brazen. BJP heavyweight and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the second most important Minister after the Prime Minister, has dismissed the protest of the litterateurs as an ‘act of ideological intolerance’, as ‘politics by other means’ and a ‘manufactured revolt’. Manufactured by whom? Is he suggesting that the eminent authors have no mind and no critical faculties of their own? That they can be manipulated by others?

Not to be left behind by his senior colleague, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma has suspected the ‘motives’ of the writers in going in for ‘not called for actions’. He has heaped scorn on them by demanding that their ‘background’ be probed as such a probe will help bring out ‘something revealing’. This worthy had also had the temerity to offer a gratuitous insult to the Indian Muslims by saying that though the late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a Muslim, he was ‘also a nationalist’, implying that all Muslims are anti-national, only Kalam was an exception. He has not been admonished.

The reaction that senior Ministers of the government have given to the return of Akademi awards by eminent writers has exposed the mindset of the rulers. Jaitley has called the protest as ‘ideological intolerance’. He needs to be told that the boot is on the other leg. It is the Sangh Parivar which is showing ‘ideological intolerance’ to a degree that threatens to tear apart the secular and democratic fabric of our polity.

The first indication of how the intolerance and communal hatred being whipped up by those who are now called ‘the fringe elements’, enjoying full patronage of the Establishment, is being taken by the common people will be known next month when the Bihar election results are out. Some significant changes in the BJP’s campaign mode have become noticeable. The face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the star campaigner of the party, is slowly being withdrawn from the posters and billboards. The new ones prominently display the faces of the local leaders. Several meetings scheduled to be addressed by the Prime Minister have been cancelled without assigning any reason.

The BJP is getting more and more unsure of the poll results and is hastily projecting its State leaders so that an electoral defeat is not interpreted as the defeat of the Prime Minister. But it is too late in the day now to undo the damage that has been done. The strategy of the BJP to project the Bihar poll battle as a fight between Narendra Modi versus Nitish Kumar seems to be boomeranging on them and they are now on a hasty damage-control operation so that Modi cannot be blamed for a possible defeat in Bihar.

In this hour of gloom and crisis, the judiciary remains the last refuge of the citizenry, the last bastion of democracy. By turning down and declaring as unconstitutional the 99th Constitution Amendment Act under which the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was set up, the Supreme Court has foiled the attempt of the Executive to pack the higher echelons of the judiciary with its ‘yes men’—men who have an ideological affinity to the present dispensation.

The battle ahead—the battle to defend and protect our secular and democratic polity from being destroyed and replaced by a Hindu Rashtra—will be a long and arduous one, a battle which has to be fought on many fronts. Not much can be expected from the all-India political parties which always calculate in terms of their electoral losses and gains by aligning with this party or that alliance. The need of the hour is to build up a National Secular and Democratic Front of all those who hold the secular and democratic values enshrined in the Constitution to be sacred and sacrosanct. That alone can blow away the dark clouds gathering in the horizon and threatening to engulf the country. The danger ahead is very real indeed.

October 19 B.D.G.