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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 16, New Delhi, April 3, 2021

Letter to the Readers - Mainstream, April 3, 2021

Friday 2 April 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 3, 2021

We feel concerned at the disturbing incident of public thrashing of a BJP MLA from Punjab. It is appropriate that in Congress party Ruled Punjab the Chief Minister has ordered stringent action against the perpetrators. The farmers’ unions from Punjab must now also come out publicly and take distance from such mob justice. As a state ruled by the most prominent social-democratic opposition party and also a place from where the most formidable and exemplary social movement (the recent peasant’s agitation) —has emerged against the Central government — Both must stand up and show the path of ‘civil conduct in a democratic society’ to society which has lost its way in following the rule of law, decency, and public decorum. Report after Report from leading international institutions is observing an authoritarian turn in ways of the Indian state and society.

Just last week Nuns travelling in a train in the State of Uttar Pradesh (UP) were made to get off the train by activists of the ruling BJP’s student wing – the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, while the railway employees and the police meekly looked away. The ABVP is not authorised by anyone to check travel documents or ID papers of fellow passengers. We doubt if any action will be taken by the UP Government led by a hard-lined Hindu Monk where activists of Hindutva right-wing are enjoying the fruits of power. BJP is playing the ’opposite role model’ — promoting authoritarianism and protecting wrongdoing all the way -– the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case (of incitement to violence) against 12 BJP leaders, Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana, BJP MLA Sangeet Som, VHP’s Sadhvi Prachi and others has been withdrawn at state government’s plea. Do the readers recall the conduct of the UP administration during the aftermath of the Hatras rape incident? State after State ruled by the BJP is undermining democratic institutions.

A gigantic election cycle is in full swing in multiple states of India and not a day passes with reports of ugly and intimidating ways of India ruling party —that wants its flag flying at every corner at any cost. In recent years, we have repeatedly witnessed before practically any state election in India how a carrot or a stick (money or intimidation in plain language) treatment is doled out to the opposition party leaders or activists by the ruling BJP. So just before the elections in Bengal, we saw a wave of defections from the TMC (the ruling party in West Bengal) towards the BJP. After that comes the gut-wrenching election behaviour at the campaign rallies. The Prime Minister —as if trying to outcompete street goons— in practically every campaign rally while addressing tens of thousands in West Bengal seems to use the most taunting and basest language against the Chief Minister of a state. A very unhealthy and ugly spectacle indeed. (With regards to the role of the media and the conduct of central machinery, and also Mamata Banerjee’s appeal to the opposition there is a useful commentary of the way things are going in the elections in Bengal, in this issue of the weekly.)

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George Orwell’s 1984 seems alive and kicking in Kashmir: As if we are trying to send a signal to the world and demonstrate India’s continuing slide into authoritarianism, the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir trying to outdo themselves —The passport application of Gulshan Nazir, wife of former Home Minister of India and two time Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has been rejected due to an adverse police report. The authorities have also declined clearance for a fresh passport to former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti claiming “that the departure of the applicant from India may, or is likely to, be detrimental to the security of India.”

We hope the Supreme Court of India takes ‘Suo Moto’ notice of this being discriminatory towards Indian citizens. The Court has held in the past that a right to travel is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and the government has no right to refuse a passport to a person who has applied for the same.

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We are relieved to hear that the confidential order from the Home Department, Government of Manipur, India, (leaked by journalists on social media) that forbade the public from giving food and shelter to refugees from Myanmar has been withdrawn for now (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-56573888). But we have reasons to believe that such an order could not have been issued by some lonesome bureaucrat without it having been in the knowledge and approval of the Union government in the first place. Usually, citizens of Indian and Myanmar could cross the border and stay up to 14 days in each other’s countries – but restrictions had been in place due to Covid19. India must not turn away refugees from Myanmar, particularly after the military coup. While the United Nations officials are raising their voice for the people of Myanmar, India should not be seen as not supporting voices for democracy in the neighbouring country.

Tributes:

Adam Zagajewski, a prizewinning Polish poet and a former dissident died on March 21 in Krakow, Poland. He was of the 1968 generation of rebellious voices for change. In 1968 he helped found Teraz, a poetry group in response to police suppression of protests against government anti-Semitism. He had to go into exile in Paris in 1982.

Khwaja Saeed Hai, the well-known Pakistanis tennis player of the 1950s passed away on March 31, he is remembered by the elder generation of sports players in India.

Haseena Moin, the celebrated screenwriter of the hugely successful ‘Dhoop Kinare’ Pakistani TV drama series passed away on March 26, 2021. This drama serial was also aired in India was popular among audiences in India.

Veteran Socialist leader and former U.P. Minister Mukhtar Anees passed away on March 30, 2021

Kamran Arif a long-standing member of Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) from Peshawar, also Vice-Chair of Human Right Commission of Pakistan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed away on April 2, 2021, due to Covid-19.

We pay our tributes to the above figures

April 3, 2021 – The Editors

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