By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Dr Ram Puniyani is one of the most prolific authors of our time writing on communalism particular that of the Sangh Parivar variety. At the time, when most of the ‘liberals’ of the ‘khan market’ variety have either surrendered or have become part of the Maharna Pratap society, of ‘new India’, he continue to write with amazing strength and capacity. One, who remain consistent in his criticism of the commuanlism of all varieties in India whether Hindus or Muslims.
A liberal thinker, Ram does not boast of his scholarship. He remain down to earth who feel more comfortable with the grassroots activists than the ‘self proclaimed’ intellectuals. He has been guiding youngsters about the plural cultural heritage of India and his arguments are simple yet outstanding. His language does not show of ‘intellectual’ ‘arrogance’ which many of our time do boast, looking down upon people particularly those from the marginalsied sections.
His writings for the last 30 years have been of speaking for people’s right cautioning people against growing fundamentalism in India as well as in South Asia where majoritarianism or mahoritarian communalism is now taking shape and minorities are considered as an obstacle. Ram believed in Ambedkar, Nehru, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Maulana Azad and all those who spoke of the idea of India. His approach has been inclusive and not too radical or ‘revolutionary’ as many might say but then for India, you need an inclusive secularism where contribution of all the communities to our nation building is essential to build confidence and develop idea of India, as envisaged by the constitutional forefathers of India.
Ram has always advocated liberal democratic and constitutional means. He quote Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh eloquently in most of his writings. It is the idea of constitutional India that is envisaged by our constitutional forefathers which is endangered and he defend that through his argument. It is not that he speak against Hindu communalism, he has been critical of Congress role during emergency and in the aftermath of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 or the dirty role of the Islamic fanatics in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as violence against minorities in these countries.
It is his persistent belief of dangers of majority communalism that he speak with great courage of conviction which has made him vulnerable towards the hate mails and dirty phone calls by various people who feel ‘offended’ by his writings. There is nothing wrong in feeling offended and responding through democratic means and I am sure Ram would be happy if his arguments are countered by arguments but then argument is not the art of fundamentalists who only know to run down the messengers or those who they feel, are brave enough to speak up against them. For the past few years, many people have gone into oblivion while many were forced into silence by violence or threat of violence.
Critiques are not enemies of nation. They are responsible citizens of the country. They follow law and abide the constitution . They dont abuse. They dont threaten people with dire consequences. It is important to listen to them. Democracy will only get strengthened if their criticism is taken positively and seriously. Chamchas of any party or structure are the biggest enemy of the structure itself. They are there as long as power protect them or help them. The day power does not help them, they will dissociate.
Ram Puniyani has got threat to his life on phone calls. A few months back, some plain cloths policemen too came to his home in the name of passport inquiry which he had never applied for. Now, a person threatened him on telephone. Maharashtra government must ensure protection of Dr Ram Puniyani and arrest the goons threatening him. This is a serious issue and we hope that Devendra Fednavis government will act on it and trace the person threatening him.
This also raise the issue of digital safety. All our numbers and details are now available on social media or through internet.The government must ensure protection of digital data as people are getting the personal numbers, contact details easily which has made the lives of common persons including activists, authors, journalists and those who dont confirm with the establishment, as very difficult and prone to facing violence. There is a dire need to protect our personal data and speak against the culture of mob justice which will ultimately destroy the very edifice of our constitution.
Our solidarity and support with Dr Ram Puniyani. He must continue with what he is doing and we sincerely hope that government will take enough measures to protect his life.