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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 15, New Delhi, March 27, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Mar 27, 2021

Friday 26 March 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, March 27, 2021

Political campaigning is in full swing for the assembly elections in many states in India. Among the largest of these states in terms of the size of the electorate is West Bengal; Here a very creative citizens campaign by artists, writers, filmmakers has made its presence felt through a powerful message not seeking vote but celebrating an India that is empathetic, and opposed to all forms of violence and hate.

Across the border in Bangladesh Celebrations are on in Dhaka to mark its 50th independence. Many of India’s younger citizens may not know that in early 1971 military repression in East Pakistan had set off a huge flow of refugees fleeing to India. Despite difficulties, hundreds of thousands of refugees were welcomed into neighbouring India in 1971 and they lived on in India for a long time. Our then ruling dispensation under Indira Gandhi extended full support to the popular leader of East Pakistan Sheikh Mujibur Rehman who fought for a secular nationalism —challenging the communalist premises of the ‘two-nation theory’.

It is very curious to read media reports about India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying in Dhaka on March 26, 2021 that ‘he went to jail while protesting for freedom of Bangladesh’. This is from a lifelong activist of the RSS – a rabidly communal organisation – whose founders supported the ‘two-nation theory’ and from a member of a political party the BJP which has for a long time led a campaign against so-called Bangladeshi immigrants in India; The BJP’s entire election campaign in the past years in Assam and now even in Bengal is focused on rooting out the Bangladeshi ‘infiltrators’’ and ‘termites’.

We live in a globalised world but fifty years on India seems a less open place to its neighbours. In recent years India refused to accept refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing and later a military coup in Myanmar. Xenophobia, a communalised common sense, and anti-migrant, anti-immigrant and anti-democratic attitudes are now commonplace and socially acceptable in the new right-wing India under the helm of Narendra Modi (and other Hindutva statesmen like Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh state). In 2017, an American survey by Pew Research Centre showed that 55% Indians support a ‘strongman’ unrestrained by parliament and judiciary, and almost half — 53% said military rule would be a good thing. No surprise this where one of the most widely sold books on the streets remains Hitler’s ‘Mein Kamph’.

Tributes:

C A Kurian, veteran trade unionist associated with Communist Party of India passed away on March 20, 2021 at the age of 88. Com Kurian got elected to the Kerala Assembly in 1977 He was elected for three terms. He also served as deputy speaker from 1996 to 2001.

G V Ramakrishna the former civil servant – former Chair of SEBI, passed away on March 20 2021. He was 92.

Nawal El Saadawi, the pioneering Egyptian doctor, feminist and writer, died on March 20, 2021 at the age of 89.

Sagar Sarhadi the short story, screenplay writer, director, and producer of films passed away on March 22, 2021. He had long been associated with the left-wing platform the Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA).

Bertrand Tavernier the well-known French filmmaker passed away on March 25, 2021. He had been as many of his generation marked by events of May 1968 and later he had been associated with a current of French Trotskyists.

Anil Dharker, the well-known editor, columnist, poet, and author passed away in Bombay on March 26, 2021. He helped create many worthy initiatives and had been a founder member of Citizens For Justice and Peace (CJP) in Mumbai

We pay our tributes to the above figures

March 27, 2021 – The Editors

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