Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s comments on writers, historians, scientists and filmmakers returning awards to protest the climate of intolerance in the country show that the Narendra Modi government is rattled by the public outcry, noted writer Nayantara Sahgal said on Thursday.
Sahgal, among the writers to give back her Sahitya Akademi award in the wake of the Dadri lynching episode triggering strong reaction from the cultural sphere across the country, said Jaitley’s response showed that the government was nervous about huge public response against the increasing incidents of intolerance across the country. “I am afraid the government is very rattled and nervous about this huge public response and is acting in the way it is and not in an intelligent way,” she told reporters on the sidelines of “Tata Literature Live! the Mumbai Litfest” here.
“The country is anguished about what is happening to defenceless people who are being gunned down, who are having ink thrown on their faces, who are being brutally threatened,” she said. “I live in Dehradun. In the bazaar yesterday, a man said to me: ‘yeh log khali ladai karna jante hai; inko nahin maloom kal kya hoga’ (These people know only to fight, they don’t know what will happen tomorrow).” “They are common defenceless people… If a man like Aklaq (the Dadri victim) can be dragged out from his house and brutally lynched…,” she said.
Talking to reporters in Patna, Jaitley earlier in the day stepped up attack on those returning awards by calling them “rabid anti-BJP elements” and stuck to his guns that their protest is a manufactured rebellion.
“Those returning awards are playing politics by other means. Follow their tweets and their stances on various social and political issues. You will find a lot of rabid anti-BJP elements in them,” he said. “I had already called it a manufactured rebellion. I stand by my phrase,” he added.
Sahgal, participating in the panel discussion on ‘Chacha Pe Charcha- a talk re-evaluating Nehru’s contribution” at the event, said the country’s first prime minister was an institution builder. “Nehru attended Parliament daily. He encouraged Opposition and nurtured it,” Sahgal, who is Nehru’s niece, said.
“What I want to say today is that cohesiveness is being torn apart by the idea of Hindutva. Earlier they divided us. Now they are redividing us as Hindus and others. We’re not Hindus and others. We’re Indians,” she said.
“We need to debate and discuss cohesiveness and Hindutva,” she said.