Expressing concern over rising communal polarisation and intolerance, West Bengal intellectuals on Wednesday wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee, seeking that the Modi government take a tough stand against fundamentalists.
“The composite culture is the essence (of the Indian society) but concerted efforts are on to destroy this. A dangerous game of communal polarisation is being played, the result of which are the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, leftist Govind Pansare and scholar M.M. Kalburgi,” the 100 intellectuals and authors, including eminent poets Shankha Ghosh and Nabaneeta Dev Sen, said in a missive.
“Be it the lynching in Dadri or cancelling (ghazal maestro) Ghulam Ali’s concert or blackening senior journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face for hosting a book launch of (ex-Pakistani foreign minister) Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, all are an example of this dangerous game of communal polarisation,” they said.
Among those who signed the statement were noted Bengali writers Sirshendu Mukherjee, Samaresh Majumdar, poet Joy Goswami and educationists Pabitra Sarkar.
“We demand the central government immediately break its silence over the matter and take stern steps against the rising communal and fundamentalist forces… Unity in diversity is India’s essence, it cannot be allowed to be destroyed,” it said.
“This is not the voice of a few authors or intellectuals but of the common people of our society who are now living in fear and apprehension,” Sahitya Akademi Award winning author Nabaneeta Dev Sen said.
As a mark of protest against the growing intolerance, a host of authors, including famed Bengali poet Mandakranta Sen, have either given up or announced returning the Sahitya Akademi awards.
Dev Sen, currently undergoing treatment, also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for evading responsibility for the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri area over rumours of beef eating.
Modi on Wednesday said the lynching of a Muslim in Dadri and the cancellation of Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai were both “saddening and undesirable”.
“…But how is the centre responsible for these?” Modi asked in an interview to Anandabazar Patrika, adding that his party (Bharatiya Janata Party) would never “support” incidents like these.