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Home > 2020 > Letter to The Readers - Mainstream, Sept 19 | Lockdown Edition no. (...)

Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 40, New Delhi, September 19, 2020

Letter to The Readers - Mainstream, Sept 19 | Lockdown Edition no. 26

Friday 18 September 2020

Mainstream weekly has had a long journey. Its first issue in print appeared on September 1, 1962. It has appeared week after week non-stop ever since except for short period during the Emergency of 1975-77. It was closed for a brief period at the end of 1976 and it reappeared once the elections were announced in 1977.

It crafted a space on the national scene as an independent progressive magazine among the thinking people of India and was available at major public libraries across the country. As a journal of repute, scholars, journalists and serving and retired state officials continue to write for it; our readership and subscribers have been from all parts of reflecting the diversity of India. Producing the paper edition has been a rich and exhilarating experience but a difficult one at that as it was run on a shoestring budget. Historians of Indian journalism will surely accord story of Mainstream its due space.

On March 28, 2020 when the Government announced a nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic in India, we interrupted the publication of the print edition. This crisis has hit us hard and we now announce to our readers and the public at large that the widely read print edition of our magazine has ceased to exist. We bid goodbye to the paper edition and continue our journey online.

The online edition of Mainstream, which started in 2007 has grown in readership over the years and will now totally replace the print edition. We invite readers of the print edition to switch to the online edition which is now appearing totally free of any subscription charges in an expanded multimedia format. We strive to continue to bring to you every week analysis, debate and commentary of events in India and beyond. Mainstream will remain an open space for ideas and debate for different streams of the Left and democrats. We look to support from our readers and writers.

In the monsoon session of Parliament, the government has said it has no data and statistics on the migrant workers’ exodus out of our cities -– on the biggest migration since days of Partition in 1947. There is no information on migrant worker deaths on their way home. It is a shame that the government with all its machinery and officialdom at its disposal has no such information while volunteers and students and some NGOs have been running a database compiling data on migration of the poor. They have tracked some 972 non-COVID deaths during the lockdown. Most of them are of migrants and their family members.

Similarly, the government has claimed it has no figures on the numbers of doctors or health workers who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic. So all that song and dance with Thalis and Helicopters flying across the country to celebrate the contribution of health workers was pure drama. Statisticians are expressing alarm at faked statistics showing that NREGA is creating much-needed employment in rural areas and that the agriculture sector is doing very well. But is it so? Observers are pointing at huge variations in the ground level figures as being put up on government websites regarding agricultural produce and regarding NREGA employment data. Questions are also being asked with regard to under-reporting of COVID related deaths and about the silence of the government on the Chinese military occupation of close to 1000 square kilometres of Indian territory. Thousands of workers have lost jobs, and the economy is contracting. Fudging statistics, resorting to propaganda to spin another reality is becoming normalised.

Those who are rightfully challenging the government claims are under attack by the government and anything goes. Anurag Thakur, a minister viciously attacked the opposition in the monsoon session of the parliament for asking questions about the PM Cares fund claiming instead that the previous Prime Ministers Relief Fund had been used for private purposes by leaders of the Congress Party when they were in power. Who is Anurag Thakur, he is the same minister who had allegedly instigated a crowd with rousing slogans to shoot the traitors. While several persons have been hauled up by the police for their supposed role in the riots this gentleman has been surpisingly left scotfree.

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Big questions have arisen about the nature of the Delhi Police investigation into the Delhi riots of February 2020; Is the Delhi Police consciously targeting and threatening those who took part in the movement against the citizenship law in North-East Delhi? Leading Opposition leaders met the President of India on Sept 17 to demand a proper and fair investigation into the Delhi violence. The police seem to have filed charge-sheets which are over 15000 pages. In an open letter to Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Shrivastava, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) claimed that several persons were forced to make confessions during police interrogation. Even this is apparently very shoddily done. Identical ‘confessional’ statements have been found by lawyers. Very senior retired police officers have written to the Delhi Police to not undermine its reputation as a constitutionally recognised entity. The Police is legally bound to protect law and order and to provide protection to citizens and not to go after critics of the government.

Top officials of central universities and the Police held a meeting on September 8th and have decided to allow police to enter campuses to weed out ‘rowdy elements’ amongst students. This is another disturbing development open to misuse for targetting opponents of the government.

There are no signs of course correction so far. It is time to recall that in a landmark ruling of the Supreme Court known as the Prakash Singh & Others Vs. Union of India & Others 2006 the court had proposed the creation of a Police Complaints Authority at the district and State level to look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and above. Who will check the wrongdoing by the police force? Is impunity the law of the land?

The Uttar Pradesh government has officially announced the creation of an Uttar Pradesh Special Security Force (UPSSF) that will seemingly have the power to “arrest a person without any order of a magistrate and without any warrant”. We hope the courts are watching.

In the absence of checks and balances, we are headed for an Orwellian state.

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The prominent lawyer and civil rights activist Prashant Bhushan has blown the whistle on what was an open secret of sorts that the group India Against Corruption (IAC), which led to the birth of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of which he was also a leading member once, was “propped up by the BJP and the RSS” to topple the second term Manmohan Singh government. The RSS machine has played many games in mainstream politics ever since the Janata Government days, while all the time claiming to be just a ‘cultural’ organisation.

The RSS calls the shots today. So we wonder what will be the verdict by the special CBI court hearing the Babri mosque demolition case which is to pronounce its judgment on September 30? Will the prominent accused former deputy prime minister LK Advani and BJP leaders MM Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar and other RSS bigwigs be booked as people who instigated the destruction of the 15th-century mosque?. Let us wait and see.

Tributes:

Anusuya Singh Estevez, the youngest daughter of Sardar Gurbax Singh, the renaissance man of Punjab and founder of the literary journal Preetlari, passed away in Venezuela on Sept 6, 2020. She was 84. She was a student from the first batch of students at the Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (PFU) in Moscow, in 1960. In 1965 she had moved to Venezuela where she taught English at Merida University in that country.

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, 74, the Indian socialist politician, Minister of Rural Development (2004–2009) and MP (1996–2014), died of complications from COVID-19 on September 13, 2020. He was a colourful politician who never minced words and did hesitate to call a spade a spade. He played a prominent role in the anti-BJP movement since the onset of the BJP govt at the centre and in Bihar.

Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, 91, the widely known scholar of Indian classical dance, art, architecture, and art history passed away on September 16, 2020 in New Delhi. She had served as a Member of Parliament and had been the founding Director of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. She was awarded Padma Vibhushan for her contribution in the realm of Arts. She spent a lifetime researching, exploring the complexities of Indian culture.

We pay our homage to the above personalities.

September 19, 2020 - The Editor

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted