Organisation set up to combat non-secular forces

The Times of India News Service

MUMBAI: The growing saffronisation of education, history writing, politics and attacks on freedom of expression and minorities have brought together secular and democratic forces in Maharashtra.

An organisation, Sanskrutik Dahashatwad Wirodhi Samiti , against cultural terrorism, has been set up.

Organisations of nearly 30 organisations are coming together at Chhabildas school hall in Mumbai on Sunday to discuss ways of combating communalism.

The recent attack on Salim Sabuvala, a dealer in books of secular orientation, is seen as the most flagrant example of intolerance. Sabuvala was attacked by BJP supporters in Bandra while he was selling books at a rally of the Bahujan Samaj party. The BJP supporters took offence at books of E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker alias Periyar, B.R. Ambedkar, other social reformers and dalit poet Namdeo Dhasal.

The police, far from protecting Sabuvala, threatened him, seized the books, detained him at the police station and raided his house at night.

The communalisation of the police force is causing particular concern to the votaries of secularism. The recent registering of an offence against former police commissioner R.D. Tyagi for his role in the communal riots of 1992-93 in Mumbai was a result of growing pressure for the implementation of the Srikrishna commission report. In the wake of the riots the police establishment has realised the need to tackle the communalisation of the force and has organised workshops by Asghar Ali Engineer, a votary of communal harmony.

Sabuvala is a familiar presence at meetings of literary, trade union and democratic organisations spreading out a wide range of books and pamphlets not usually accessible in many book shops.

More people should turn out at meetings and rallies to protest attacks on secular values,said Uday Mehta, a former professor of sociology in Mumbai university. .Trade unions need to be more responsive, he felt.There are a large number of people who are opposed to communalism and they can be mobilised, he said.

Mr Mehta said the left trade unions' joining hands with the Shiv Sena for the Maharashtra bandh on April 27 was not a happy sign. It gave legitimacy to the Sena. However, he felt cheered by the fact that organisations like Vidrohi Manch were able to mobilise thousands of people for literary gatherings on a platform of secularism and equality.

The Vidrohi movement has marked the polarisation of the literary scene in Maharashtra. The official Marathi literary conferences are being increasingly dominated by forces close to the Shiv Sena and the BJP where there is little space for dissenting views.

There are also other dissenting voices in other fields. The attempt to introduce the teaching of astrology and Vedic mathematics in universities has been opposed by a number of teachers in IIT, Powai, and other organisations. Mumbai university vice-chancellor Bhalchandra Mungekar has also opposed the move.

Mr P.R. Ram, author of the book Fascism of Sangh Parivar, said the attack on Periyar's and Ambedkar's interpretation of the Ramayana was unjustified in a land which has a long tradition of pluralism and different versions of Ramayana including the Buddhist Ramayana. A recent Telugu book by Ranganayakamma, strongly critical of the `racist and anti-feminist` aspects of the Ramayana has sold a large number of copies.

The project of rewriting Indian history from the communal point of view and the attacks on secular historians are also causing concern to scholars. Some of the finest contribution by modern Indian scholars is in the field of history. Now these progressive historians, looking at history from different perspectives, economic, social, environmental, feminist, are under attack.

The conference on Sunday will focus on the issue of `terrorism and the Brahminisation of education by the sangh parivar' and the `danger of cultural nationalism of the RSS.'

The speakers will include Govind Pansare, whose book portraying Shivaji as a secular, not communal force, was attacked by communal forces recently. Mr Sitaram Yechuri, a member of the politbureau of the Communist Party of India, (Marxist) will inaugurate the conference. Nalini Pandit, scholar and a campaigner for secularism, will preside.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: June 9, 2001
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