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Mainstream, VOL LV No 39 New Delhi September 16, 2017

Disturbing Scenario Unfolds

Tuesday 19 September 2017, by SC


The economic situation is worsening by the day. This is the naked truth which is staring us in the face. Lately the fuel prices have been increased phenomenally—seven per cent increase in the last few months. Prices of vegetables have already recorded considerable rise.

Against this background one has to read the latest column of Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the Ashoka University Vice-Chancellor and a regular columnist in The Indian Express. The article “Inglorious uncertainty” appears in the daily today and it reads:

In times when violent political intimidation, social polarisation and moral pathology have, rightly, become overriding preoccupations, it is hard to focus on the listlessness of the Indian economy. BJP President Amit Shah was reported as explaining away India’s economic slowdown to 5.7 per cent, as one due to “technical reasons”. It is hard to know what that means.

It could be of a piece with the government’s contempt for “technical reasons”, or it could mean, we don’t care to explain and neither should you ask too insistently. Fortunately for the government, other than a few “technical” people, no one is asking about the economy too insistently. And that should worry us.

Mehta concludes with the following words that provide an incisive understanding of the current reality:

The lack of focussed intellectual and political outrage at what is at best a very modest economic performance should be worrying. It is of a piece with the government’s constant success in trapping us in an air of unreality. It also means that the political pressure to deepen the politics of polarisation will continue. The invisible “technical reasons” behind the slowdown will have to be masked by the visible and intimidating reasons of political polarisation.

What is currently happening is deeply disturbing. The economic conditions having deteriorated vastly from those that prevailed when the Modi-led BJP Government, representing NDA-II, took over at the Centre in mid-May 2014, there is every likelihood of the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar more and more taking law in their own hands as they did when they killed Mohammad Aklaq (on the allegation that he had stored beef in his house), Pehlu Khan (for being involved in cattle-trading) and Junaid (returning to his village after purchasing new clothes for Eid in New Delhi). In none of these cases were the victims engaged in anything remotely illegal or violative of law. Yet they were killed. Why? Because they belonged to the minority community. This was the consequence of the politics of polarisation which the BJP has embarked upon in a big way.

While such polarising politics is taking place in the Hindi heartland, elsewhere as in Maharashtra and Karnataka where the democratic forces are even weaker than those in North India, the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar are on a killing spree. After Dabholkar and Pansare in Maharashtra, and Kalburgi in Karnataka, Gauri Lankesh has been likewise liquidated in West Bengaluru.

This is real face of the Modi-Shah combine that needs to be unmasked at the earliest.

In this context the late stirrings in the secular camp are doubtless noteworthy. Gauri Lankesh was killed outside her home in West Bengaluru as she returned from work around eight in the evening of September 5. This assassination shook not just writers and journalists but all sections of the people across the country and protest marches and meetings were organised at different places. But the largest rally took place in Bengaluru itself with thousands (they numbered 10,000 in all) repre-senting various people’s movements marching through the city—from the Krantiveera Sangoli Rayanna railway station to the Central College grounds where a people’s convention was held on September 12 a week after the gruesome murder. The slogan “I am Gauri” was raised throughout the march and Gauri’s mother, Indira, saluted the attendees saying: “I welcome all the Gauris that have come here.”

Those who addressed the convention included Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, representing the National Alliance of People’s Move-ments, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, and noted journalist P. Sainath who opined that the huge turnout “will be a stirring chapter in the fight against the culture of intolerance and hatred”.

Significantly, one of the spokesmen from among several seers at the rally, the seer of Nidumamidi Mutt, Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami, did not mince words to openly proclaim that Gauri was “martyred by the proponents of Hindutva terror”.

While all these are happening in India, a new humanitarian issue has cropped up in our neigh-bourhood: the veritable ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Countless Rohingya men, women and children have been forced to leave Mynamar and seek refuge in Bangladesh.

Initially the Government of India took a stand on the subject that was definitely contrary to India’s age-old position of extending all help to such hapless and beleaguered persons. That has lately been reversed and New Delhi is extending humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees in relief camps in Chittagong’s Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh). Better late than never!

September 14 S.C.

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