The Third National Convention of Dakshinayan Abhiyan
February 1, 2018
The third national convention of Dakshinayan Abhiyan was recently held in Wardha and Nagpur on 29 and 30 January 2018. The Dakshinayan Abhiyan is a movement launched by Padma Shri Ganesh Devy, a scholar, linguist, and an activist. According to Devy, it is larger than a literary festival; it is also a social movement and a forum for dialogue. The forum protests the increasing number of attacks on the freedom of speech and expression, and killings of rationalists and cultural activists. As Devy explains, the movement is an attempt to bridge the divide that exists between the self-proclaimed “brilliant” writers and writers who are not part of this coterie. Bridging this divide is necessary to be able to fight unitedly against the regressive forces that are constantly attacking the fundamental rights and freedoms that the Constitution of India guarantees.
The third national convention of Dakshinayan Abhiyan, SAMAS-2018, kicked off on 29 January 2018 in Sewagram, Wardha, and culminated in Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur, the next day. Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr B R Ambedkar, and Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, addressed the gathering.
Writers, activists, and artists associated with Dakshinayan Abhiyan, who had gathered together from various places across the country, also chose to remember Gauri Lankesh’s fearless journalism, and the struggles that she fought, by dedicating a session to Gauri Lankesh on 29 January, her birth anniversary. The event took place in Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram. They recited poetry in various regional languages, like Kannada, Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, and English.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by Naturam Godse, a proponent of Hindu-nationalism. Right wing organisations, like Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), celebrated his death. The right wing also celebrated Gauri Lankesh’s death, who was assassinated on 5 September 2017. Chairing the session, Vidya Bal, a noted Marathi writer and editor, said, “Words are powerful than bullets.” The session was also meant to protest against the politics of hatred and violence being perpetuated by the Sangh Parivar in this country.
Kumar Ketkar, a well-known journalist from Maharashtra, remembered Gauri as a “…different kind of journalist”. He said, “She was doing a different kind of journalism. Gauri was not very well known nationally. [But] she was fearless. She had always received death threats but they did not stop her from speaking the truth. The current communal atmosphere in the country, and Gauri’s work, which actively protested against it, are why her death caught the nation’s attention.” Pointing out that such use of violence is typical of the fascist, right wing regimes, he said, “The rulers of the fascist regime are against those who speak for the people in their language and bring the issues of the people, their struggles, to the forefront.” Speaking about the strong resistance in reaction to the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh, Ketkar said, “These murders are a threat to all of us and Gauri’s death has given all of us the courage to fight against the fascist forces that are distorting our constitutional rights.”
Megha Pansare, pointed out that it is not uncommon for people, who speak for those who lack a voice, to be killed. This systematic attack, according to her, is not just an attack on an individual but also on the voiceless and marginalised communities of this country. Hence, she said, “Remembering Gauri, along with those who were killed before her, is incomplete without forming a strong resistance against the growth of fascist force.”
Ulka Mahajan, a Right To Food activist; Alwar Rajan, an activist; Pradnya Pawar, a Marathi writer; and Dr. Vinaya and Dr. M D Okkund from Dharwad, saw Gauri’s struggle as people’s struggle.
The convention culminated, on 30 January, with moving and historical speeches by Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar and Rajmohan Gandhi. Ambedkar addressed the audience gathered in Sevagram Ashram; and Rajmohan Gandhi addressed the audience in Deekshabhoomi. Ganesh Devy called it a coming together of Gandhian and Ambedkarite ideologies to fight the attacks on our fundamental rights and freedoms together.
Both the speakers acknowledged that Gandhi and Ambedkar were not in congruence. They had differing opinions on questions of caste, religion in general, and reservation in particular. But, the speakers pointed out, their difference had never come in the way of their dialogue. There was constant conversation between them, with each respecting the other’s ideas. The way the differences between them are being played up, and fabricated stories of the hostilities between them are being given out, is alarming. It is just one of the ways in which dialogues and mutual respect, which was an important part of our country’s history, is being side lined. It is an attempt to create a state of disharmony, and is a threat to democracy.
The convention concluded with a public meeting, which was chaired by Damodar Mauzo from Gao, Raosaheb Kasbe, Pradnya Pawar, Medha Patkar, Ganesh Devy, Rajmohan Gandhi and Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar.
Co-published with Newsclick
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