A few days ago I was in Goa for some programmes and Party work. One programme was the final session of the 'Difficult Dialogues' organised as part of the London School of Economics - India Summit. BJP's Yashwant Sinha, journalist Sidharth Varadarajan, social scientist Sudhir Kakkar and myself were the speakers. The topic was: Is Dialogue Dead?
It was January 30 and I started by saying how meaningful it was to have a discussion on such a topic on the day the Mahatma was assassinated. He was a frail man, dressed simply in khadi and posing no physical or other threat to any human being. He was murdered. That was an attempt to silence dialogue. Today we see similar attempts in the murders of Dhabolkar, Pansare and Kalburgi. Attempts to kill and stifle dialogue.
Dialogue is not mere conversation. It is a debate of ideas and it is through clash of ideas that civilizations advanced and can today progress. It is this process that is under threat today. However, as long as people like us are around dialogue will be prevented from ending. As Bertolt Brecht once said: " In the dark times, will there also be singing?." He replied: "Yes, there will also be singing about the dark times." Even in the dark times we shall keep the dialogue going to fight the dark times so that as Chinese philosophy informs us, "Let a hundred flowers bloom and a thousand thoughts contend."
Yashwant Sinha was of the view that people's resilience should not be underestimated. The Indian people fought against the emergency and restored democracy in the country. Emergency was an attempt to end the dialogue. People fought back and restored the dialogue. Likewise, the people shall prevail even today.
To which I said, the struggle is of course intensifying against the growth of intolerance in our country today. This growth of intolerance is premised in advancing the project of converting our secular democratic republic into their version of a rabidly intolerant Hindu Rashtra. That is an idea which the majority of Indian people reject. Hence the attempts to end the dialogue through such spread of intolerance. The atmosphere for a healthy dialogue is being stifled. There Yashwant Sinha gave the famous reply 'the stifler will have to pay the price. Wait for 19 months.' I said: "18 months are already over." The discussion ended with a laughter.
The atmosphere there in the event was very positive and the session ended with a sense of hope with my reiterating our continued fight against the communal agenda. That hope I believe is the reflection of the growing resistance against the efforts to communalise the Indian society in order to advance the RSS agenda of metamorphosing the character of the Indian Republic. This is a dangerous idea which apart from creating immense insecurity for the religious minorities our country, is mounting vicious attacks - both physical and ideological - against the citizens who according to our Constitution are guaranteed equality "irrespective of caste, creed and sex." The resounding atmosphere is to save our republic in order to strengthen it further and on that basis build a better India.