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Mainstream, VOL LV No 1 New Delhi December 24, 2016 - ANNUAL 2016

Braving the Heaviest of Odds

Monday 26 December 2016, by SC

EDITORIAL

With this issue of the Annual Number 2016, Mainstream steps into the fiftyfifth year of its modest existence.

In its inaugural issue on September 1, 1962 the Mainstream editorial clearly stated: “it shall be our endeavour to try relentlessly to demolish the wall of misunderstanding, mutual suspicion and even personal pique that divides progressively sections in the country from one another”. And we have kept that policy-perspective in view in all our activities since that time.

Five years ago it was conveyed in these columns in the Mainstream Annual 2011:

It has doubtless been a purposeful voyage with all the trials and tribulations it had to encounter on its path which was indeed quite arduous due to its resource-constraints in particular. The difficulties have continued to mount over the years as the nation’s politico-economic scenario has undergone a sea-change with money power dominating the course of events and the basic principles of the freedom struggle relegated to the background, if not jettisoned, in the name of ‘pragmatism’, a word which camouflages the betrayal of past values at the altar of profit-seeking self-serving ideas borrowed from the West. Self-reliance has given place to dependence on the sole surviving superpower which uses its brute force to crush the recalcitrant states’ sovereign right to shape their own destiny. In these conditions the mere survival of a periodical propagating distinctly different ideas and objectives is in itself a daunting proposition. But we have been able to sustain the publication of this journal thanks to the generous assistance and unstinted support of all those who still feel that progressive forces of all hues need to exchange views and opinions with the purpose of forging common bonds among them—the goal for which this weekly was born in the second half of 1962.

However, what it faces today has no parallel. From the time the present dispensation at the Centre seized the levers of power in mid-2014, the attack on the minorities—in order to distort the face of India and transform the country into a Hindu Pakistan by subverting the Constitution carefully crafted under the inspiring leadership of Dr B.R. Ambedkar some 67 years ago—has been unabated. (This has been lately reflected in the preposterous public statement by a BJP MP from the Capital that Muslims “have never voted for us and never will” as the “BJP is a patriotic party”; it should not also be ignored that the body of one of the alleged killers of Mohammad Akhlaque—who was lynched to death for the ‘crime’ of having stored beef in his fridge—was draped in the national tricolour on his death, an honour bestowed only on national heroes.) Of course, one should not minimise the resistance to such an attempt from the civil society in general and leading intellectuals, writers, artists in particular, even if the pressure from the political parties in the Opposition was of limited value. Yet it must also be acknowledged in all candour that those currently in power in South Block are having their way as latest events conclusively prove.

The demonetisation of high-denomination currency effected by the PM from November 8 is a case in point. Narendra Modi has publicised it in a big way claiming that it was an integral part of purging the Indian economy of black money that has eaten into the nation’s vitals. But the reality is different. Howsoever much a middle-level RSS functionary hails it as the country’s first economic satyagraha in a bid to assert that it was a step against neo-liberalism, what has been brilliantly brought out by an AIIMS professor in an online journal on the predicament suffered by the real India of the poor people, the Bharat, whose toiling inhabitants are being “bled to death in the name of cleansing the economy” can barely be overlooked. What is undeniable is that all the distinguished economists of international repute have unequivocally decried the PM’s move on this score with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen assailing it as a “despotic action” by an “authoritarian government” even as Narendra Modi indulges in rampant self-advertisement projecting the kudos he is believed to have received from the poor for this ‘bold decision’! It is also a matter of grave concern that instead of explaining his government’s position in Parliament in its winter session, the PM has been on an overdrive roundly condemning the Opposition parties in his public rallies for their criticism of demonetisation and characterising them as protectors of the black economy. Even a cursory observation of the political scene today would make it clear that he was consciously ignoring Parliament thereby devaluing its utility for which he needs to be taken to task as it is a serious breach of parliamentary norms.

The situation developing across the nation threatens to undermine secular democracy. This can be countered only by all secular democrats coming together and defeating the ruling dispensation’s endeavours in this regard.

The road before all of us is beset with manifold odds appearing insurmountable at times. But only by forging the widest possible unity of all forward-looking forces can we hope to restore the health of this vast landmass where 1.5 billion people reside, while protecting, promoting as well as reinforcing its secular democratic pluralist ethos. That indeed is the need of the hour.

In that task of paramount importance Mainstream pledges to rededicate itself, as always, to the best of its ability notwithstanding its severe constraints and limitations. But here too we shall be guided, as before, by the will of our resilient people, the actual rulers of our destiny, our real bhagya-vidhata.

December 20 S.C.