Jitendra urges intellectuals to defuse intolerance
‘Ask State Home Ministry why Geelani’s march has been banned and curfew imposed’
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Nov 6: Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh on Friday implored the country’s intellectual community to come forward and play the same role that the Progressive Writers Forum had adopted in the aftermath of the Partition in 1947 to neutralise communal frenzy and intolerance in India.
In his interaction with mediapersons on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, Dr Singh faced questions over the cult of ‘intolerance’ that had sprouted in several States in the last 17 months of the NDA rule. He was asked how the Modi government viewed the situation, particularly the intellectuals and writers returning their awards to Sahitya Akademi and other cultural bodies to register their protest against ‘communal and cultural intolerance’.
Responding to a question over communal intolerance with specific reference to a Kashmiri Muslim trucker’s killing by a group of frenzied men in Udhampur---headquarters of his Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu province---Dr Singh asserted: “My considered belief in this is that the intellectual class of the country, that includes writers, artists and poets, carries of its shoulders a very rich legacy of a tradition which expects them to work for uniting the society instead of willingly or unwillingly becoming a part of a treadmill that divides the society”.
“In 1947, in the aftermath of the Partition, when there were communal riots all over the Sub-constituent and there was a huge communal frenzy, a group of writers came forward to constitute what came to be known as Progressive Writers Forum. It constisted of very famous literary personalities like Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Ismat Chugtai and Mohsin Bhopali. They vociferously raised their voice against the divisive elements”, Dr Singh added.
“Intellectual class must rise to the occasion instead of becoming a party this side or that side”, Dr Singh said. Facing another question on actor Anupam Kher’s march, he asserted: “A manufactured campaign becomes more manufactured if further supplementation is done to it”.
When it was pointed out by a journalist that BJP’s ideological arm RSS had created a ‘fear psychosis’ among the Muslims with a rally in which the chalaks carried guns and swords, Dr Singh pleaded that there was no element of militancy or intolerance in it. He asserted that the rally on every Dussehra---RSS foundation day---had been an annual ritual since 1925 in Jammu. He claimed that it did not ever offend any community or minority and insisted that it had been “wrongly projected” in media.
“Unfortunately some vested interests among the political class tend to give it one or the other colour. But I think it should be taken at its face value”, he said.
Banning Geelani’s march
Responding to a question why BJP’s coalition partner PDP, known for its ‘battle of ideas’ trademark, had banned Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s proposed ‘million march’ at Tourist Reception of Centre, parallel to Modi’s rally at Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium, Dr Singh argued that such decisions of the State government were consistent with security detail put in place around the Prime Minister’s visit everywhere.
When it was pointed out by newsmen that the authorities had put all the separatist leaders under house arrest, detained hundreds of Kashmiri youths and put the capital city virtually under curfew for Modi’s rally, Dr Singh contended that Police and law and order were the State issues and such questions should be put only to the State Home Ministry. “They must have reasons for taking such decisions”, he said.
Dr Singh declined to take questions on the contents of Modi’s much awaited speech. He also ignored media reports that Modi could invite Pakistan, Hurriyat and militants for talks on the resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio. Pressed hard if Modi would start the political process where Vajpayee had left it in 2004, Dr Singh said: “Prime Minister Modi has already said that he would carry forward Vajpayee’s legacy with regard to resolution of the Kashmir crisis”. He, nevertheless, confirmed that Modi would unfold a major “economic and political package”.