Cultural fascism

On May 1 and 2, 2006 the illegal attack on a dargah in Vadodara city by well known rowdies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal (BD) created communal tension. The torching alive of young Rafik Vohra on the second day showed us that hate that is still simmering thanks to some political outfits in Gujarat. The timely intervention by the union home ministry after Rafik Vohra had been attacked helped contain the situation.

But as the controversy detailed below shows, deep-rooted intolerance has now become legitimate in Modi’s vibrant Gujarat. On May 20, 2006, Dr Ganesh Devy expressed his views in Tehelka on the prevalent atmosphere in the state. His words created a literary storm with Gujarati writers of repute hurling personal abuse and even venom. In his article, tracing the source of the growing violence in Gujarat, Ganesh Devy told Tehelka that there was a relationship between a society’s acquisitive tendency and the emergence of violence. He also talked about the role of the ‘decent’ people in breeding hatred.

Dr Devy founded the Bhasha Tribal Academy in Tejgadh, 92 km from Vadodara. He was instrumental in publishing Dhol, a magazine brought out simultaneously in ten tribal languages. Through his writing, he explains to non-tribals why we should get rid of our obsession with the mission of bringing tribals into the mainstream.

Ironically, though Tehelka is not read widely in Gujarat, alert eyes were quick to remedy this. Photocopies of the piece were circulated and nearly everybody who is anybody in Gujarati literature reacted angrily to Devy’s comments. Articles that appeared in newspapers and writers made statements demanding that Devy tender a public apology. Angry and vicious views expressed by litterateurs Shirish Panchal, Ranjana Argade and Sitanshu Yashashchandra confirmed what Devy had been brave enough to say.

An imminent meet of the Gujarat Sahitya Academy was scheduled to be held at the Tejgadh institute. Following the outbreak of intolerance, Dr Devy was threatened; apologise or the venue would be shifted. Finally, the meeting was held at Mandvi in Kutch. Author and activist Mahasweta Devi declined to attend the meet at the new venue. Devy wanted to avoid any campaign in his solidarity. He, like many others, leads a precarious life in Gujarat.

June 2002: At a meeting at the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad in Ahmedabad in June 2002, ostensibly to discuss the aftermath of the genocide, speaker after speaker sang praises of the tolerance religion preaches but none wanted to support a proposal for the restoration of Sufi poet, Wali Dakhani or Wali Gujarati’s tomb, flattened in the dark hours of the night on March 1, 2002 by bulldozers of the Congress-dominated Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Suddenly, rationalist writers began claiming that the tomb was an encroachment and angry voices asked those who had made the proposal whether they were concerned about earthquake victims or only the delay of relief to Muslims. The faces of the very people who had been singing paeans to tolerance were now distorted by hatred.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 3



Related Articles