People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 06

February 10, 2013




Defeat This Rising Intolerance


DEFYING all predictions and opinion polls, the electorate of our country in the 2004 general elections gave a decisive verdict for a secular democratic dispensation that shall form the government in the country.  They defeated the combination of communal forces led by the BJP despite an aggressive “shining India” and “feel good” campaign.  So confident was the NDA then of victory that it had preponed the elections by a few months.  The verdict was such that a secular government was possible only with the decisive support of the Left parties, which decided to offer outside support to the UPA to form government on the basis of a Common Minimum Programme.


One of the consequences of this verdict was of seminal importance.  This was a dramatic and welcome shift in the paradigm of political discourse in the country.  High pitched communal and religious intolerance dominated the discourse at that time.  The country was still nursing the grievous wounds caused by the communal genocide in Gujarat when nasty campaigns for stopping the Pakistani Gazal singer Ghulam Ali from performing in Mumbai, cricket pitches being dug up by the Shiv Sena to prevent the Pakistani cricket team to play in India, banning of films that focused on social evils concerning widow re-marriage etc were raging across our lands. 


With the 2004 poll verdict, the discourse shifted to issues that had a direct and significant impact on people’s livelihood such as Rural Employment Guarantee, Tribals right to forest lands, the Right to Information, loan waiver for indebted farmers etc.  On many of these pro-people issues, the Congress led UPA government was forced by the Left parties to implement such important policy decisions. Likewise, the country was prevented from losing its precious public sector assets and stopped from becoming vulnerable to the speculations of international finance capital with the Left’s opposition to the policies of financial liberalisation. 


Unfortunately, now history seems to have traveled in a full circle. Once again waves of cultural and religious intolerance are raising their ugly head across the country.  The Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader spoke, recently, pouring out venomous communal hatred.  This comes exactly a month after the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), MLA in Andhra Pradesh Akbaruddin Owaisi delivered an inflammatory hate speech at Nirmal Town in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh on December 22, 2012.  He has since been arrested. On January 22, 2013, Praveen Togadia, VHP leader, delivered his hate speech at Bhokar town in Nanded district of Maharashtra, just 80 kilometers from Nirmal.  This once again proves what was stated in these columns last week that communalism and fundamentalism only feed and, thus, strengthen each other.  In the process, they seek to destroy the very foundations of our secular democratic Republic. 


Such intolerance in the field of art and culture is also on the rise.  Kamal Hassan’s film `Vishwaroopam’ was banned in the state of Tamilnadu. It was subsequently cleared for showing following some compromises that the film maker had to make with certain sections who raised objections. This raises a serious issue about a film being banned after the Censor Board has cleared it for showing in the theatres. 


In Srinagar, an all girl rock music group, Praagaash, disbanded itself  following the threat of a fatwa issued by the grand priest Mufti Bashir-ud-Din who termed this all girl musical group as “blasphemous activity”. 


In a repeat of what happened in West Bengal under the directions of its chief minister, police arrested a man in Agra for allegedly posting `indecent’ cartoons of political leaders including the prime minister and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. 


An art exhibition in New Delhi showcasing a retrospective on modern nude art had to be temporarily closed down when the women’s wing of the VHP, Durgavahini, organised protests forcing the gallery to climb down. The exhibition was displaying works of internationally renowned Indian painters such as Amrita Sher-Gil, Raja Ravi Varma, Anjolie Ela Menon, M F Hussain, Jogen Chaudhury etc. 


Likewise in Bangalore, a Delhi-based artist  had to remove three paintings of Hindu God and Goddesses  which were considered as offensive by the now well-known Karnataka `culture police’.  This exhibition was inaugurated a day earlier by the Karnataka governor H R Bharadwaj. 


The West Bengal government had prevented the visit of international well-known writer, Salman Rushdie, to Kolkata to attend a literary festival.  The state government has not offered any basis for its decision so far.  In its defence, it draws parallel to the earlier Left Front government’s treatment of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.  As usual, the facts are conveniently not told by the TMC. Taslima Nasreen came to Kolkata, she was not prevented by the Left Front government.  When her book was published carrying certain sections which were not there in the Bangladeshi publication, protests erupted. Eventually, the state government had to call in the army to prevent large-scale violence. It is only when the situation reached such proportions, when  all efforts and talks by the state government with the protestors failed did the Left Front government suggest to the central government to shift her from Kolkata  in the interests of peace and order in the state. On this occasion, Salman Rushdie was outrightly told not to come to Kolkata without making any such effort or disclosing to the public the state government’s apprehensions.


All these are ominous signs that threaten the unity and integrity of our country and the secular fabric of our society.  A desperate RSS-led BJP in its efforts  to regain control of the reins of government at Delhi, embroiled as it is in serious inner-party squabbles and the rat race amongst its leaders to be projected as the future prime minister of India, is preparing to fall back on its core Hindutva agenda to rouse communal passions.  The consequent communal polarisation, it hopes, will deliver political and electoral benefits. 


In the process, however, the very foundations of our secular democratic Republic will, once again, come under severe strain.  For our country and our people, who are in the midst of a grim battle against the economic onslaughts of the present government, such communal polarisation will only grievously divert people’s attention away from strengthening struggles to improve their livelihood.  Therefore, both for the sake of our country and for the well-being of our people, such communal polarisation must be decisively defeated. 

(February 6, 2013)