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‘Secular and democratic space in the country has been shrinking since NDA govt came to power’

Small though the protest was, the participation of high-profile names gave it added voice.

Dadri lynching, writers protest, Sahitya Akademi award, M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Sahitya Akademi, writers protest dadri lynching, dadri lynching protest, Sanatan Sanstha, Chandigarh news During the protest at the Plaza in Sector 17, Chandigarh, on Wednesday. (Source: Express photo by Sahil Walia)

A group of writers and academics held a protest in the city condemning the Dadri lynching and the killings of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and senior CPI leader and rationalist Govind Pansare, expressing solidarity with the litteratuers countrywide who had returned their awards in condemnation of attacks on individual freedoms and intellectual and creative expression.

Small though the protest was, the participation of high-profile names gave it added voice. Among those who took part were Mohan Bhandari, the eminent short story writer who returned his Sahitya Akademi award Wednesday, Chaman Lal, who returned his award earlier this week, chairperson of the Punjab Arts Council and former mayor Bibi Harjinder Kaur, and Member of Parliament Dharamvir Gandhi.

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“The right to speech is a fundamental right. The recent happenings, whether it was the killing of Kalburgi or the incident in Dadri, are a threat to democracy and the voice of the minorities,” Harjinder Kaur said, calling the present situation in the country “a big challenge for each one of us”.

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Noting that several writers from Punjab had returned their awards, including a Padma Shri, Punjab, she said, had always stood up for human rights and humanity, from the time of the 5th and 9th Gurus.

She said the government had created “a threatening atmosphere everywhere” in its pursuit of a “communal agenda”.
Chaman Lal, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, criticised the NDA government’s “anti-intellectualism”, and said it was “bent on destroying all knowledge”.

Gandhi, the Patiala MP who was recently suspended from the membership of Aam Aadmi Party, said “secular and democratic space in the country, which was not very much even before, has been rapidly shrinking since the NDA government came to power”.

There was an all-out attempt by Hindutva forces  to curb civil rights and individual literary and artistic freedoms, and attacks on science, history and individual liberties, including people’s diets and women’s freedoms, Gandhi said.
“All fields of social, political, economic, cultural activity are under threat from Bajrang Dal, VHP, and this new organisation Sanatan Sanstha,” he said.

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He also told the gathering that he had protested in Parliament against Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan greeting BJP members of the House with “Jai Shri Ram”. Protesters help up placards, urging the Centre to “save secularism, save democracy”. One placard read: “I am Kalburgi, Shoot Me”.

First published on: 15-10-2015 at 05:34 IST
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