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Mainstream, VOL LX No 22, New Delhi, May 21, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 21, 2022

Saturday 21 May 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 21, 2022

Unemployment is on the rise, inflation is on the rise, a heat wave like never before is in the air with no government advisories on safety and protection, electricity cuts are reported from across the country, there is alarm on water levels running short in our rivers, high air pollution levels in our cities, a spike in coal production, new permissions for coal mining zones given contrary to our big commitments to a transition away from fossil fuels, landfills have been on fire, rising incidents of industrial accidents and fires in factories, forest fires in the mountains and massive floods have struck parts of the state of Assam. But all of that gets passing mention, the media focus is on rising political noise coming from the ruling Hindutva right-wing – to purge our Mughal past – in the form of deletion of references to the Mughals in school books, in the form of proposals calling to change the names of cities, and increased targeting of certain places of worship or monuments over their ’religious’ character. A selective and politically biased reading of our past is used as a weapon of mass distraction to take public attention away from burning issues of the day. Do people not remember how the BJP along with multiple Hindutva outfits ran a huge national political mobilisation campaign for a Ram Temple in the late 1980s targeting a centuries-old Babri mosque in Ayodhya as having been built over a Hindu religious site. Setting aside secular historians, the Hindutva peddled this was a matter of faith they kept the pot boiling for political gain creating much social division and violence. In order to avoid a similar crisis in future our legislators had passed a law in 1991 called the ‘The Places of Worship Act’ designed to protect the secular features of the Indian polity to maintain the status quo on the religious nature of a place of worship as it was at the time of India’s independence on August 15, 1947. Despite having such a law the Babri Mosque was illegally demolished by a mob of politico-religious fanatics and years on all involved were acquitted for want of evidence. The foundations of India’s secular character were shaken as a result. Each passing week we see a new trick from the right-wing to polarise and divide the electorate along questions of faith, language, nationality etc. Multiple campaigns on the rise again in the courts or outside – e.g. the Gyanvapi Mosque dispute in Varanasi, dubious claims over a Hindu religious shrine inside the Qutub Minar monument in Delhi, creating controversy over Taj Mahal — the famous UNESCO protected monument as having been a Hindu religious site, threats to demolish the tomb of Aurangzeb. Set religion aside all these are part of our cultural heritage and should be protected as such. India’s secular political parties in the opposition and social movements must not remain silent they should come out speaking loud and clear against a sectarian agenda to divide the people.

May 21, 2022 – HK

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