New Delhi: Eminent scholars, academics, artists, writers and activists have condemned the saffronisation drive, assault on Reason, and the re-writing of History. They called it dangerous trend that reflects a serious erosion of overall democratic space in the country.
Addressing a press conference organised by SAHMAT here on Saturday, they said growing communalization of the public space should be a matter of serious concern for those who believe in secular ethos.
In the wake of shocking murder of the Kannada scholar and writer Dr M.M. Kalburgi and renaming of Aurangzeb, they accused the Modi government of embarking on a programme of fundamentally redefining identities, isolating and denying recognition to several cultural streams that have contributed to the richness of India’s national life.
Professor Irfan Habib, Anil Nauriya, activist Teesta Setalvad, Prof Prabhat Patnaik, and other, who addressed the media, said the murder of Dr Kalburgi and the unseemly response of elements closely associated with the current ruling dispensation are a chilling reminder that lives continue to be at risk in arguing the case for rationality and a critical attitude towards religion and tradition.
Like the killing of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, exactly two years ago and Govind Pansare earlier this year, the assassins have struck in broad daylight but left few physical traces. Preachers of the new religious bigotry though have left a trail of ill-intentioned and inflammatory statements that could be regarded as incitement.
They also flayed the attempt to transform the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library into a “museum of governance”, which is one of the landmarks of the capital city showcasing the life and times of India’s first Prime Minister, architect of many of its most enduring national ideals and symbols.
“Turning into a ‘museum of governance’ betrays a complete disregard of the distinction between preservation and propaganda”.
In the sphere of higher education, public statements by those in authority and the consultations that they have recently launched, suggest a determination to make knowledge a handmaiden of business and commerce. Consultation papers recently put out for public comment seem suffused with a certain disdain for the arts and humanities, and a determination to shift already stretched resources to the narrow task of skill building.
Institutions of culture and higher education are today reeling under a spate of highly questionable appointments, based more on political partisanship than proven competence. The strike by the students of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, will soon enter its fourth month.
The chairperson of the Indian Council for Historical Research has even within the handpicked membership of the newly reconstituted body, caused extreme bewilderment by the eccentricity of his views.
At the same time the renaming of the Aurangzeb Raod is an ominous augury for a campaign to change names on communal grounds.
They said systematic attacks on rational and independent thinking, as manifest in the recent killing of Dr Kalburgi, combined with the dubious efforts to re-write Indian history as can be seen in the re-naming of public roads and streets, need to be seen as part of the majoritarian and communal agenda of the NDA II government. They are part of a trend that began in 1999 with the Value Education syllabus sought to be introduced by the then NDA I government.
These attacks, driven by the sectarian and anti-Constitutional agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), began a few months ago when names of roads in Delhi were blackened anonymously. One of the roads thus blackened was Safdar Hashmi Marg.
It is to be noted that a delegation of the RSS’s Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS) headed by Dinanath Batra has reportedly met the MOS Home Rijju, demanding that all roads and public spaces named after Mughal kings or those of the Delhi Sultanate should be re-named.
They called for an informed public debate in which all voices are heard before such consequential matters are decided and urged the top functionaries of the government to take their cues in these matters from scholars, experts and accredited authorities, rather than their own narrow ideological fraternity.
(With inputs from Muslim Mirror)