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Scholars, activists blame NRIs, corporates for shrinking space for free speech

Civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad and other activists Anil Nauriya (left) and Prabhat Patnayak (right) at a press conference on Kalburgi's killing in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

Seeing a shrinking space for free expression, academics and activists on Saturday turned their ire on the corporate sector and Non Resident Indians (NRIs) for "orchestrating" the BJP’s electoral victory in the Lok Sabha elections last year.

Agitated by the series of attacks on freedom of expression- the latest being the murder of Kannada rationalist M. M. Kalburgi, lawyer Anil Nauriya said at a press conference, “I don’t expect answers from the Bajrang Dal, VHP, RSS or even the BJP. I hold the captains of industry and NRIs accountable for distorting the outcome of the elections knowing fully well the dangers involved in having such a party in power.’’

He was addressing a press conference organised by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust to protest the “assault on reason” that has manifested itself not just in the killing of Kalburgi or Govind Pansare in February but also in the effort to replace history with mythology. Historian Irfan Habib and economist Prabhat Patnaik joined Mr. Nauriya in blaming corporates for helping in the ``Fascisifictaion’’ of India while activist Teesta Setalvad underlined the fact that the founding fathers had rejected religion-based nationhood for India.

“The captains of industry have created this situation for their narrow gains. Through the Nehruvian era, they complained against restrictions. Post-liberalisation also, they kept complaining. No matter how open the economy is, it is never enough for them. While they want a liberal economy, they do not want a liberal landscape. They need to be held accountable for joining hands with forces that have taken the country back by a century,’’ Mr. Nauriya said.

He was equally critical of NRIs and their desire to interfere in Indian politics which goes back to the 1980s when they began to demand voting rights. According to him, the founding fathers had made residence in India a pre-requisite for having the right to vote so that it is exercised with caution; fully conscious of the consequences.

Prof. Habib and Prof. Patnaik were one in likening the situation evolving in India to the eve of Hitler’s rise. “We must realize that we are now governed by the RSS which from its inception never concealed its fascination for Fascism. The Second RSS Sarsanghachalak M. S. Golwalkar had praised Hitler and his treatment of the Jews,’’ the historian said.

Just like Nazi Germany, the current dispensation wants to replace history with mythology, is inventing facts, and has the support of the moneybags. “In 1933, German business supported Hitler and in 1945 they said they had made a mistake,’’ Prof. Habib said.

Echoing him, Prof. Patnaik added that the Government was adding to the crisis by systematically destroying the intellectual resources – particularly, the study of arts and humanities -- needed for a struggle against Fascism. ``Killing all scope for rational discourse is part of the plot.’’

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 4:49:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/scholars-activists-blame-nris-corporates-for-attack-on-free-speech-by-govt/article7621830.ece

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