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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 13, New Delhi, March 13, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Mar 13, 2021

Friday 12 March 2021


Exactly 91 years ago on 12 March 1930 Mahatma Gandhi had embarked on the Dandi March also known as the Salt March or Salt Satyagraha — Gandhi walked from his ashram in Sabarmati to the small town of Dandi in Gujarat to protest against the repressive salt tax imposed by the colonial government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose political party the BJP (and its ideological mothership the RSS) which had nothing to do with India’s anti-colonial movement has decided that it is politically useful to somehow show that RSS was a part of freedom struggle — so to make good use of the anniversary of the Dandi March with much pomp and show launched a national event ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ [Festival of Freedom] from Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad to mark 75 years of India’s Independence. Launching such an event a good five months before the actual independence day of August 15, has short and long term political gain in mind; the short term has to do with coming elections in five states of India and longer term being to re-package makeover of Mr Modi and the BJP as the ‘nationalists’ re-born as anti-colonialists. In a parallel move, the Opposition Congress Party in Gujarat and leaders of peasant organisations had intended to mark the anniversary of Dandi Salt March and to protest the controversial farm laws introduced by the Modi Government, and were planning to set off on a Kisan Dandi Tractor Yatra on March 12, 2021 from Sabarmati Ashram Ahmedabad and to Dandi with plans of reaching there on March 16, but as per our information the authorities prevented the opposition march and many organisers were detained and held back.

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Assembly Elections have been announced for the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, West Bengal and Assam. The biggest of these elections is to be the Election in West Bengal. The election campaign is in full swing in West Bengal for a phased Assembly polls beginning March 27. The stakes are very high in this election and the BJP is doing all to make major political inroads in the state. A large number of leaders and activists of the ruling TMC have been been served all manner of lollipops to get them to cross over to the BJP. On March 10, 2021 the Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was in Nandigram to file her nomination papers for the coming elections; In the evening she sustained an injury in her leg and neck when the door of her car was apparently pushed on her by some people, the details are not fully available. We wish Ms Banerjee a speedy recovery. The election authorities must ensure full protection to her and to all candidates from acts of violence in the weeks to come. Political violence for long has become a given fact of life in West Bengal. We hope the Election Commission will do all to prevent major violence from erupting during this crucial election.

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India must demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and all other civilian political leaders who were detained after the coup in Myanmar, including those held for the protests. The UN Security Council has appealed to the Junta in Myanmar to stop using lethal force. India must wholeheartedly support this appeal. It is very distressing to hear that on March 6, 2021, the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir detained nearly 170 Rohingya, sent them to a holding center, and said they plan to deport them. Soon after, dozens more Rohingya refugees were detained while they were camping outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in New Delhi. The Government of India should put on hold any plans it may have to deport to Myanmar the Rohingya refugees residing in India and others who have recently fled to India seeking refuge.

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We welcome the unusual good news from Brazil, where the High Court has invalidated the corruption charges against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who has been serving a prison term. This decision ends Lula’s much politicised persecution which had prevented his participation in the 2018 elections. In 2018 presidential elections Jair Bolsonaro had won by a huge margin in a country that had previously voted for Lula’s Party the center-left Workers’ Party (PT). There is much excitement in Brazil that the once popular Lula can now run against the Brazil’s current President Jair Bolsonaro and unseat him in the future elections and shift the center of political gravity back towards the left and social democratic forces.

March 13, 2021 – The Editors

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