Hozefa Ujjaini


On 13th August 2014, a meeting was organized by All India Secular Forum in association with Janvikas, Insaaf, Parwaaj and National Peace Group at Maratha Hall, Lal Darwaja, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Fifty-five  youths, social activists, Grass root worker and community people participated in the meeting.


The meeting was organized to discuss Issues, Challenges & Way Forward regarding ‘Changing contours of India’.


Advocate Irfan Engineer in his detail speech analyzed the present scenario and said that:

The new government came into power with four major agenda:  curb inflation,  development of all,   weed out corruption from government machinery and  remove tax terrorism.


The election campaign blasted that there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion and would be moving towards development of all. However, the Budget announced by the Government did not show any signs in this direction. The Railway Budget showed an increase of 14% in fares. This would affect the common person directly. This would effects the transportation costs. This would increase the cost of essential goods like milk, diesel, which would affect the consumers. There is no covert or overt indicator in the Budget that the Government is moving in this direction. There has been no major long term step introduced in controlling food inflation.


The Government has been quick to pass Bills which they promise would bring development in the country and counter the antidevelopment forces in the country. The new government has been quick in subduing the voices of opposition in the name of good governance and development. The Government has come up with the statement that there has been a  3% drop in GDP due to NGO’s antidevelopment activities. Therefore the Finance Bill, 2014, has brought in a series of amendments in Sections of Income Tax, which cover tax exemption for NGOs, trusts and charitable institutions, that give sweeping powers to the government –from drawing tax benefits or canceling their registrations. This has cleared hindrances for big industrial giants for setting their business. As a result there would be no voice for marginalized in the policy making.


The present allocation of Ministries has not been well thought of. The portfolio of Environment which is very important and needs rigorous study before passing of a Bill, has been given a secondary importance. The same is with Rural Development ministry. This would mean taking decisions without due considerations from all sectors considered.


The Government has clamped opposition voices by terming them as antinational and antidevelopment. This gives full leverage to Government to have their “paradigm of development”- model in which the marginalized, civil society organization do not have right to express their opinion, oppose any model which are against the fisher folk, slum dwellers, farmers and laborers.


There has been a boost for the big industrial giants in the country in the name of development. The Government has proposed 100 mega cities in the upcoming Five Year plan. This would mean more inequities in terms of infrastructure development, ghettoization on the lines of caste and religion, insecurity for women, inadequacies in terms of access to health care to all. However, this would mean bright future for politician, bureaucrats contractors and industrialists who would be key people in building mega cities in country.


There have been amendments in the Land acquisition Act making it easier for the industrial giants to acquire land at a cheaper rate and not at a market rate. The provision of seeking permission from 70% of the residents has been removed and price of land to be given 4 times above the market price has also been removed from the Act. This would lead to  eviction of people with balance weighed heavily against them promoted by the State. Therefore, it is to be seen, whose  “Ache din aiyage” and “Sabka vikas”?


The Government has been quick in changing the culture of country. Secularism and democracy are the founding principles enshrined in the Constitution. However, there are visible signs where these principles are being eroded. The State machinery is soon getting saffronized. For example, the appointment of Mr. Sudershan Rao as the Chairperson of  the prestigious  “Indian Council of Historical Research” has being political and  his thoughts have been affiliated towards Hindutva ideology. The person holding such a stature sends a negative image to the country.


The remark of a retired Supreme Court Judge that “ he would have made compulsory the study of “Geeta” in schools and colleges if he were a dictator”. This speaks volumes about a Supreme Court Judge who ironically is supposed to uphold the values of democratic functioning and secular values.


The tolerance towards other religion, practices, culture, seem to fast dwindling leading to monoculture and insecurity among the minorities. For example forcing chappati in the mouth of  a Muslim supervisor  during Ramadan is an act of vandalism and intolerance by Shiv Sainik Member of Parliament  in Senasadan in New Delhi. Until  now, no action has been taken for this act. The education system has gone one step ahead in shaking the secular fabric. A reference study on “Hindu culture” has been introduced in all Government schools in Gujarat prepared by  Dr. Dinanath Batra, the man who pioneered the pulping of Wendy  Doniger’s book: The Hindus: An Alternative History.


Communal clashes are frequently observed in parts of country. As per Indian Express report dated August 5, 2014, there were over 605 “communal incidents” in UP since the Parliamentary Elections.  Police records show provocation from all sides: aggressive Bhartiya Janata Party,  desperate Samajwadi party of Mulayam Singh Yadav and  shrinking Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati.


The communal tension is simmering. The reason may be petty ranging from loudspeakers from temple during azaan, fight between individuals from two communities during marriage procession or at tea-stall. All this is leading to a polarized population, which initially was not the scenario. This is dividing the secular fabric of country and is taking dangerous overtones. The same situation is witnessed in Gujarat.


Gujarat has always had history of communal conflicts. Sporadic communal clashes were witnessed in many places. The past one year, there has been clashes in Petlad, Modasa, Khambat and  Ahmedabad. With the use of technology, the hatred along the lines of religion is being disseminated amongst the youths. This has led to provocative remarks and altercation sometimes leading to major conflict.


The new Government has heralded an atmosphere of new form of functioning, in which the democratic forums are saffronized. For example, the introduction of Dr. Dinanth Batra books as reference. The democratic functioning of the forums is slowly getting eroded.


Irfan Engineer also said that secular fabric of the country is at stake. Hindutva ideology and imposition of  majoritarianism  is being pushed  openly since the present  BJP came to  power a few months ago. The democratic functioning of the country is now shrinking at a faster pace. The communal behavior among people is quite visible resulting on the rise in communal riots in many parts of the country.



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