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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 6, New Delhi, January 23, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Jan 23, 2021

Friday 22 January 2021

Letter to the Readers of Mainstream - Jan 23, 2021

Joe Biden the 46th president of America took his oath of office at a solemn ceremony on the Capitol Hill the seat of Government in Washington D.C. on January 20, 2021. As is the custom, the ceremony was attended by elected officials from both major parties and by dignitaries, but the most notable absence was that former of President Donald Trump, who broke convention and chose not to be present at his successor’s inauguration. After four years of having had Donald Trump in power, most Americans had probably forgotten what it is to hear a sober and reasonable speech from their head of state.

Joe Biden in his speech was able to put into words the reasons for the deep divisions in society and American "disunity", stressing the urgency of ending an "uncivil war". He recalled the value of truth in public discourse and the damage caused by the systematic recourse to lies. “Politics doesn’t need to be inflammatory,” he said. “We must reject the culture . . .in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”

This lesson applies to many deeply divided societies from Brazil, to India, to Poland, Hungary and Turkey run by authoritarian leaders. The past four years also saw a surge in activity by white supremacists in the US, which Biden repeatedly stated was one of the reasons that made him enter the presidential contest. It is truly commendable that Joe Biden went on to choose Kamala Harris a woman of colour and of mix race parentage as his Vice Presidential choice, at a time when racism is alive and kicking in America.

The Biden administration intends to get federal agencies to make “rooting out systemic racism” central to their work, to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds get equal access to government resources and services. This is a noble but tough goal to meet. We must also note that Democrats have chosen to give fair representation to people from all different ethnic groups and have included many people of South Asian origin, but have chosen keep distance from pro-BJP-RSS elements in the democratic party.

Donald Trump may have lost power but we must remember some 75 million people voted for him. The forces of reaction are alive and strong in America as elsewhere. India is a fine example of how popular the far-right government of Narendra Modi remains after being in power for six years. Unlike the Biden administration’s plank of promoting harmony and taking on racial injustice, the Modi government actively stood with the anti-migrant and pro-rich government of Donald Trump. The Modi government and the ruling BJP has a massive xenophobic and authoritarian support base that celebrates Godse the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi and derides progressive ideals of Jawaharlal Nehru and is systematically taking us on the route to a majoritarian democracy.

As India heads to celebrating its 72nd Republic Day on January 26, 2021, its citizens must look at the social fractures and communal divisions that have grown in the past six years. The far-right vigilante groups of Hindutva have had a free run …. And all manner of discriminatory laws have been introduced e.g. the Citizenship Amendment Act, recently new laws have been brought in by multiple BJP ruled State governments to prevent interfaith marriages – a move which is unconstitutional and misogynistic. The most striking case is in the State of UP where the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 has been passed. The arbitrariness with which the Uttar Pradesh police have used this law has amplified fears of misuse of state machinery to terrorise the minorities. The Gujarat High Court has restrained the State government Gujarat from implementing the amended sections of the Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act, 2020 which Institutionalises Segregation on the Basis of Religion

Freedom to love who we want, to eat what we want, to wear what we want, to express creatively is all under threat — Freedom of expression has been shrinking. Every day you hear of a film, a web series, a play that comes under attack by the so-called keepers of faith. Extrajudicial forces of censorship, harassment and governmental overreach have endangered and shrunk the secular democratic space we have had. The opposition to the Government of the day in India is very weak both in the Parliament and outside … but the recent ongoing street protest agitation of farmers is by the far the most important opposition social movement we have seen in a long time that is providing important space to raise public grievances.

Tributes:

Ustaad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, the renowned musician of Rampur Sahaswan Gharana away on January 17.

Sunil Kumar, professor of history at Delhi University passed away on January 17.

Burgula Narsing Rao, a participant in the Armed resistance of the peasantry in Telengana in the 1940s passed away on January 18.

Dr V Shanta, well know oncologist who headed the Adyar Cancer Institute in Chennai, died early January 19, 2021. She was 93

Malathi De Alwis the well-known Sri Lankan Feminist Anthropologist passed away in Colombo on January 21, 2021.

We pay our tributes to all the above people

January 23, 2021 - The Editor

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