Rejecting the charge that the Congress and the Left were behind their protest against “growing intolerance”, writers and artistes on Sunday alleged that ruling BJP was unable to “control its mobs”, with one of them even comparing RSS to terror outfit Islamic State (IS).
During a “resistance” (Pratirodh) meet in the national capital, writers, artistes and academics protested what the called the an “attack on reason, democracy and composite culture”.
Claiming that business leaders, common people and even the President had voiced concern about the “disturbing” trend, the protesters took umbrage to Union Minister Arun Jaitley’s remark dubbing their agitation as “manufactured rebellion”.
“In its inability to control its mobs, the only comeback that the BJP has is to describe the protesters as Leftists or instigated by the Congress party. Many of us are Leftists, but many of us are not Leftists. What the protest is about is the need for a liberal space and this being emphasised again and again,” historian Romila Thapar said.
In his speech, historian Irfan Habib said, “…There is not much difference between the Islamic State and the RSS as far intellect goes.”
A minute’s silence was observed by the gathering for three slain rationalists — M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.
Noted poet Ashok Vajpeyi, who was among at least 37 writers those who had returned their state awards in protest, added: “The President, the Reserve Bank Governor and leading industrialist Narayan Murthy have joined this manufactured politics. Some of us had returned our awards and now the number has crossed 40. And we are being accused of practising manufactured politics. Sir, the politics of hatred, violence, killing and ignorance is being manufactured by you.”
Dabholkar’s children Mukta and Ahmed Dabholkar were also present along with Dalit writer Mohan Das Rai. Meghna Pansare, daughter-in-law of Pansare, said that the three families had come together to seek justice.
Thapar also alleged that fringe elements were calling the shots and have “succeeded in creating an atmosphere of fear, violence and acute disharmony”. Dismissing accusations that they had never protested in the past, Thapar said she had twice declined Padma awards from Congress governments.
Actor Sharmila Tagore also extended her support to a “resistance meet”. The latest protest by the writers came on a day when Jaitley filed a fresh salvo to counter the protest, accusing Congress, Left thinkers and activists of practising “ideological intolerance” towards the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Writers’ message to Akademi: Reinvent yourself
Several writers, including those who had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards, Sunday wrote to the body, urging it to build on a resolution it passed recently and respond in a “strong, humane and robust” manner to situations.
“This is an urgent matter at this moment of spiralling hatred and intolerance,” a group of 41 writers said in a statement to the Akademi president, and asked the literary body to “reinvent” itself.
In another open letter addressed to everyone, the same bunch of writers expressed their “all-pervasive” concern about the “idea of India” being “distorted”.