Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s era is proving to be worse than the 1975-77 emergency rule, noted Hindi writer Rajesh Joshi has said.
One of the many writers to return the Sahitya Akademi awards over alleged growing intolerance, Joshi said BJP leaders now have ‘swollen heads’ because they never thought they would get to rule India.
“The environment of intolerance that is being created is dangerous for democracy, and it is the duty of writers and thinkers to stand against it, which we are doing,” Joshi, 69, told IANS.
He said the Modi government wants to control intellectuals through mediocre people.
He described the present situation in the country as worse than the emergency period when political foes were jailed in thousands, individual rights were curbed and press freedom was done away with.
“Even then no killing took place. But in the last two years, three writers have been killed,” He said.
Joshi, who lives in Bhopal, is a poet, journalist and playwright. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2002 for an anthology of poems. He has also won several literary prizes. His poems have been translated into several languages.
The protests by writers in several languages was triggered by the murder of Kannada writer M.M. Kalburgi – and the Sahitya Akademi’s perceived silence. Many writers also cited other murders and the lynching of a Muslim man over rumours that he ate beef to underline that a climate of intolerance appeared to have gripped the country.
Joshi questioned Modi’s earlier silence on these incidents.
“The protest against the killing of three writers has intensified with the support of historians, filmmakers and scientists. But the government is not paying heed,” he said.
Joshi said the government needed to understand that “a stubborn attitude does not work… One ultimately pays for it heavily. The government must learn from the Emergency period.”
He said if the people had chosen them, they could also show them the door. “We saw this in the Delhi election.” he added, referring to the BJP’s defeat, when it could only win three seats in the 70- member assembly and the Aam Aadmi Party stormed to power with 67 seats.
He denied that literary figures were indulging in politics by returning their awards.
“Each person has his political viewpoint. It may be leftist too. The question needs to be asked why the BJP could not produce intellectuals? Why doesn’t it have prominent thinkers, writers and historians as leftists do?
Joshi blamed the central government for “orchestrating an environment of intolerance” by not taking proper steps to act against those who carry out hate attacks.
“The BJP, a party with a staunch ideology, doesn’t have intellectuals. That is why they attack intellectuals and put people like Gajendra Chauhan at important places,” he said, referring to the current chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India.