Volume 1, Issue 1
Postal Address: CSSS, 602 & 603, New Silver Star, Santacruz (E), Mumbai:- 400 055
Newsletter of All India Secular Forum
Volume. 8 No.3 March 2013
From the Editor’s Desk
We are organizing a consultation in Ahmadabad on 9th March to introspect on the activists related to preservation of secular values. Many a groups and individuals have been struggling in different arenas and in diverse ways to thwart the rising tide of communal fascism. It seems that there is a need to drastically look at our efforts to nurture and promote the secular values, which are deeply intertwined with the democratic ethos and rights of the citizens, irrespective of their religion, caste and gender. In last couple of years again we saw the communal forces making strides to undermine the democratic rights. The victory of Modi and his projection as the Prime Ministerial candidate are frightening to some extent. We propose to pose the questions to the participants of the meet. The detailed invitation for the meet outlines the challenges for the secular activists.
The hanging of Afzal Guru came as a celebration for the communal forces and a setback to the voices of sanity. The whole case of Afzal was on the weak ground and the main reason for his death penalty was to ’appease the collective conscience’ of the nation not the crime! In such a situation there was a definite need for relooking the case rather than hanging him.
The arrest of Akbaruddin Owaisi for hate speech was a welcome step, but similar speeches by Pravin Togadia have gone unpunished. Similarly Varun Gandhi has been exonerated for one of the most hateful speeches, it is a shame on our system.
We also carry the detailed write up on the Maula Masjid-Bhojshala issue. After tasting success and power through Ram Temple issue, the communal forces have been on the lookout for issues which can create the religious fissures in the society. A reading of this report will make it clear as to how communal forces are being subtly supported by the BJP ruled Government in the state.
One book review of our Varanasi publication, Sanjhi Virasat: Sanjha Sankalp’ being carried in this issue tell us the need to promote the literature for communal amity.
The contemporary Political Scene: Threats of Communal Fascism
What we have been witnessing from last decade or so is very disturbing to say the least. During this time, while UPA continues to be in power at the centre, the communal forces continue their march through various mechanisms.
BJP Governments in various states Gujarat, MP, Chattisgarh are rooting themselves, for long innings. In Karnataka it may look shaky but overall the intimidation of minorities is going up by the day.
The sporadic outburst of communal violence in states like Assam, UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other parts of the country has deeper significance of the communalization of polity, the worsening role of police and polarization of people along religious lines is worsening.
The movements, anti-corruption one in particular has crystallized a middle class, which is opposed to the affirmative action of state, and has the pro-right wing tilt in its values.
Culturally we are witnessing a scene where the retrograde values are becoming the norm and occupy the centre stage; this is the cultural base of communal fascism. Along with other aspects of social scene, it contributes a great deal to the rightward shift of the polity.
The rise in the clouts of Godmen, from Sri Sri to Babas like Asaram, Ramdev and others is a sign of the alienated middle class seeking short cuts for maintaining status quo.
The plight of minorities is worsening, their security, equity is taking a continuous beating, the Government schemes are good on paper but their presence in the society is too little to make any significant difference.
While BJP may look electorally weak, Modi’s victory in Gujarat and his prospect of being PM candidate has given it sort of much needed oxygen.
The other parties are more interested in their power goals, their coordination on secular democratic ground seems to be fragile, and many of them are confused or blinded by electoral calculations, vote bank politics. The need to put up a joint front for democracy and secularism is marred by their narrow and regional ambitions.
The social movements are not able to stand up to be a visible alternative for the defence of the rights of weaker sections, including those of minorities.
Need for Secular-Democratic Response
This situation needs a definite unified response to thwart the threat of communal fascism. While the major political parties have not done anything on this front, some social groups and individuals have tried to put forward a response in various forms
Investigating and analyzing the acts of communal violence, bringing forward the truth behind terrorist violence. People’s Tribunals. Good analytic work has been done in these areas.
Legal Work to engage the state and pin down the guilty has been consistently and bravely pursued.
An attempt to rehabilitate the victims, to get them justice though not adequate has been tired well. The process of reconciliation has been experimented at places.
Organizing the secular elements through magazine, internet groups has gone on to some extent.
Awareness programs for putting forward the truth behind prevalent myths, political training of activists, youth has also been undertaken at places.
Attempt to form secular platforms are in the offing, the success is very limited on this front..
The role of groups and individual exclusively working for secular values is laudable but is miniscule and inadequate.
Political formations can play a very positive and powerful role in confronting the creeping communal fascism; there are limitations to this as well. One does not know how these parties can come together to play their role to thwart the threat of communal fascism.
The social movements, the progressive political groups have a big potential for playing a crystallizing positive role in the struggle to save democracy. For left, saving democracy has to be a paramount task.
We need to explore the possibility of a left progressive platform to strengthen and expand the work initiated by some groups and individuals. The question is will the progressive social movements take this as a major challenge and go head long to take up this challenge?
The left and progressive forces, whatever be their strength need to look at the possibility of coming together for a secular platform, which sees the biggest threat in the politics of RSS and its progeny, its political child BJP. Strengthening Secularism and Democracy has to be the major goal, this has to be done at cultural, social and political level.
The other sections of society which stand to lose very much with rise of Hindu right are dalits, women, workers, religious minorities and adivasis. How do we make political bridges with the movements of these social groups.
We have limited time as the rise of Hindu right is too rapid, can we give a thought to it and put our energies in this direction.
We need to redesign our education textbooks, particularly the history textbooks that depict conflicts in the past as that between two religions and religious communities, and indeed our education system itself, teaching values and familiarizing the students with the composite culture and syncretic traditions.
Reforming the policing system and sensitizing our police to secular traditions and secular values
Enactment of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill to prevent and control communal violence
Reversing the ghettoization process.
To discuss the above issues, AISF has organized a consultation in Ahmedabad on 9thMarch from 10:00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. at St. Xavier’s Non Formal Education Society, St. Xaviers College Campus, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad 380009.
The format of the discussion will be round table with all participants briefly sharing their views. The morning session would be on identifying the changing strategies of communal forces and strengths and weaknesses of secular response and secular polity. Post lunch session would be on indentifying the future programmes and activities of AISF.
Unfortunately due to lack of funds, we will not be able to reimburse travel or any other expenses. However, the AISF Gujarat Committee will make arrangements for local boarding and lodging. You have contributed a lot for secular movement and strengthening secular values and your experiences will be of immense help to determine the future of the movement.
Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer (Patron)
L S Herdenia (National Convenor)
Ram Puniyani, Member of National Convening Committee.
A delegation of Rashtriya Secular Manch has urged the state governor, Mr. Ram Naresh Yadav to direct the state government to take effective steps to prevent any untoward communal clash in Dhar town.
The delegation informed the governor that communal elements are threatening such action which may culminate in communal tension.
This year Basant Panchmi is coinciding with Friday. In view of this Hindu extremists will try to prevent Muslims from offering prayer, and will insist to perform pooja.
This may culminate in communal clash. In view of this the delegation demanded that both pooja and Friday prayer should be banned on Feb. 15 and also subsequently. According to the press note issued by L.S. Herdenia the delegation also urged the governor to direct the state government to ban the entry of VHP leader Dr. Pravin Togadia it Madhya. The delegation through a memorandum informed the governor that Dr. Togadia's utterances during this recent visit to M.P. were highly provocative which may disturb the peace and law and order situation in the state.
The delegation consisted of besides Herdenia, trade union leader G.S. Asiwal, Shailendra Shailly of the progressive writers Association and Upasna Behar of Yuwa Sambad.