No political party ever stood with writers, says Guha

No political party ever stood with writers, says Guha

Whether it was author Ramchandra Guha or journalist-turned-AAP politician Ashutosh, the writing on the wall for the BJP government at the Centre according to them was clear.

Presenting his talk on the “Eight Threats to Freedom of Expression”, Guha minced no words in calling the present government as “philistine and anti-intellectual”  highlighting the growing climate of insecurity for writers and its disregard for scholarship.

At the same time however, Guha said that there was never a golden age of the freedom of expression in the country as no political party whether major or minor, ever stood totally with writers.

From the ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses by Congress’ Rajiv Gandhi even before Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa on Rushdie to the murders of regional writers Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, Guha gave a number of examples. “Writers are now physically being eliminated. We should contemplate in which direction this country is heading,” he said.

Guha also said that while he would love to take up a project on writing a biography about Dalit icon B R Ambedkar, he would not be able to do so as he was “not a Marathi, a Dalit or a Maharashtrian”, highlighting the rise of identity politics as another factor threatening the freedom of expression.

In another session, “From Anna to AAP: Mass Movement to Political Party and to Governance”, Ashutosh highlighted BJP’s defeat in Bihar and asked it to take note of the growing sentiments of people. Referring to BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra, he said: “If you live in denial then not only BJP, even AAP will be dumped in history.”

Ashutosh further highlighted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s long silence on the Dadri lynching incident as well as centralized system of  functioning of the government. “It was only 10 days after the lynching at Dardri that the PM spoke and this too was not a satisfactory statement. No decision can be taken by Cabinet ministers. Do the BJP have the guts to identify itself irrespective of Modi?” he said.

Patra however countered these arguments by attributing the delayed response to the delay on the part of UP government in sending the report about the incident.

He cited unceremonious expulsions of former AAP party members, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the party, as example of Arvind Kejriwal’s hold AAP.

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