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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 39, New Delhi, Sept 11, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Sept 11, 2021

Saturday 11 September 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, September 11, 2021

For the past ten months farmers from Punjab, Haryana regions mostly but with support from other parts of India have been engaged in a protest movement against three farm laws brought in by the Modi Government. The most remarkable thing about this farmers agitation which started on November 26, 2020 has been that it has remained peaceful except for a few incidents of violence witnessed on the January 26, 2021. The Modi government and the ruling party have done a lot to control, repress, vilify and discredit the protestors, but this unusual movement has gone on despite the odds. Now, a massive mobilisation of the farmers has taken place on September 5, 2021 at the Muzaffarnagar ‘mahapanchayat’ of the peasants. Such a huge rally in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) has two major implications, first of all, such a mobilisation will fuel some anti-government sentiment — Assembly elections are to coming in UP in 2022 and could dent the political support for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The second but more important issue here is that the peasant mobilisation is calling for cross-religion, cross caste mobilisation, this has major significance because it was violent calls and speeches from a peasant and caste ‘mahapanchayat’ in 2013 that had triggered the mass violence in Muzaffarnagar. The Muzaffarnagar anti-muslim violence of 2013 had caused a huge social rupture in the state and the BJP had a reaped a political harvest by winning big in the elections in UP. The current mobilisation of Sept., 2021 for the Muzaffarnagar rally spurred many Muslims to participate and support the event, this in itself is a major achievement and helps build a sense of social acceptance for a minority under seige and creating a small safety net against the dominant communalist and divisive politics prevailing in the state. Irrespective of whether this will have a political effect to cut into BJP vote on the 2022 UP state elections such a mobilisation can help do much needed social healing in society by enlarging spaces for participation for marginalised groups.

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Critics of the BJP led government continue to face intimidation in India. In the past 24 hours two important websites newsclick.in and newslaundry.com have seen the Tax department conducts ’survey’ at the office premises of these media sites. Newsclick has already been subjected a few months ago to a raid by the Tax department. International media watchdogs are keeping a tab of what is happening and can see through the wrong doing.

In the past days extremely disturbing reports have come in of deadly political violence from the state of Tripura. The CPI(M) and parties of the Left Front complained of these attacks in from goons of the ruling party. Offices of the CPI(M) and some media groups have been attacked and burnt, and scores of activists of the left have been wounded in these attacks. There is no justification for any such violence anywhere and it must stop.

Today on the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the city of New York, we pay our homage to the victims and hope for states and societies everywhere to prevent violence in our cities, towns, and elsewhere.

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Tributes:

Suraiya Hasan Bose a known connaisseur and promoter of handloom crafts in India passed away on September 3, 2021. In the mid 1950s she worked with Pupul Jayakar and Kamaldevi Chattopadhyay at the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Council, and later on at the Cottage Industries Emporium in Delhi.

Keshav Desiraju, a former Union Health Secretary, passed away on Sept 5, 2021. He also held prominent positions with the Government of Uttarakhand, the Government of Uttar Pradesh, and the Government of India and retired as the Union Secretary in the Department of Consumer Affairs. High respected by his colleagues, he was a rare breed of ‘citizen-bureaucrat’. He was grandson of India’s former President Dr S Radhakrishnan

Sunil Perera, a popular musician and a performer of Sri Lanka’s baila genre of singing that emerged during Portuguese colonisation - died on September 6, 2021. He was an outspoken man who stood-up against targetted assassinations of political critics, like that of journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga.

Professor Sheila Bhalla, was a faculty member of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU, for decades and later Professor Emerita, passed away in Pondicherry on September 6, 2021. Her scholarly work on the agrarian economy of Haryana and North India remains important reference on rural economy in India. The large national trade union of the Peasants All India Kisan Sabha has paid a fine tribute at the deep commitment shown by professor Bhalla to the cause of peasants & labour.

Sonal Shukla, founder of Vacha a feminist library and educational space of the women’s movement in Bombay is no more. She passed away on Sept. 9, 2021

We pay our tributes to the above figures

September 11, 2021 – HK

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