May 13, 2017

India: Press Release from National Convention for Safe-guarding the Constitution for our Rights and Justice (Lucknow, 10 May 2017)

10th May 2017
Gandhi Bhawan,

Press Release

National Convention for Safe-guarding the Constitution for our Rights and Justice

The 10th of May, 2017 was an important day for many reasons. Marking the 160th anniversary the mutiny of 1857, it also happens to be Budhha-Purnima, the birthday of Budhha, considered a champion of human rights in ancient India by many. The national convention for safeguarding the constitution, a coming together of social movements across the country against what is an attack on constitutional rights and the travesty of justice sees plenty of symbolic value in it. The initiative is a collective response to numerous instances of abuse of power, fascist, right-wing policies of the BJP-led central and state governments. It was agreed that the victory of the BJP in the UP elections and the events that have followed required immediate notice and attention as well as a dialogue amongst progressive forces in the country.
The convention saw the coming together of various people's movements, both pan-indian as well as regional grassroots initiatives along with representatives from political parties. The first session was chaired by Rakesh, renowned theatre artist at IPTA. Other speakers consisted of noted social activists Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mandar, Sanjay Garg, activist,Saharanpur, Deepak Mallick, Varanasi. Ramkaran student leader Allahbad University, Lal Bahadur Singh and Rooprekha ji from Sanjhi Duniya. The participation of youth in politics was also an important issue that was addressed. Young SP leader Richa Singh spoke at length about the single minded attack on public run higher institutions of the country such as DU, JNU, HCU amongst other as well as the new UGC guideline that cuts upto 85% of seats at Mphil and Phd levels.Ramkaran, student leader and activist pursuing law at the Allahbad university threw light on the systematic targeting of Dalit and marginalised students. The speakers in different ways but unanimously agreed on the unprecedented attack on the constitutional rights by the BJP and condemned it . Issues such as the communally divisive agenda of BJP, blatant saffronisation, autocratic, non-democratic methods of working, abuse of power, anti-poor, pro corporate economic policies as well as stoking communal tensions and its hypocrisy and u-turns along many lines since its victory in 2014 and more recently in 2017 were criticised. Last but hardly the least, the rise of cow vigilantism and the 'depoliticisation' of the youth in the country were criticised. The need for a mass level political education, or reducation of the youth, rural population on principles of Constitutinalism, rule of law and the historical learning experiences of the national movement was stressed by one and all.
While the Prime ministers silence on most of the issues was questioned, activists also questioned and reflected on the silence of the people on issues such as demonetization, land reforms, train ticket price hikes which came at huge costs to the people in the way of health and employment opportunities. Notably, retired IAS officer and activist Harsh Mandar said while one can fight against the anti- people discriminatory policies of the government but the silence of people and fellow citizens against injustice such as the mob attacks was harder to accept. The 'India Exclusion Report' for the current year published by Mr. Mandar's organisation on more such issues is due to be released on 12th May. BJP's strategy, 'social engineering' was carefully scrutinised. Compared with that of the divide and rule of the British, speakers suggested it was clever in pitching hindus against muslims which helped it elude deeper questions about inequality and wealth distribution within the sections themselves as lead to actual policy outcomes.
Members from the congress, BSP, SP and CPIM and others attended the convention too. Party representatives such as Shri Arvind of Samajwadi Party, Surendra Rajput Congress, Manoj Jha of the RJD and Lal Bahadur Singh of the UP Jan Manch extended their support to creating a combined resistance against the BJP and welcomed the effort, the creation of a common platform. The need and willingness to form a joint front against the politics of the BJP and its ideological parent the RSS, along more democratic and secular lines was emphasized by activists as well as party representatives. Mr. D.P Tripathi of the NCP, Ashish Mittal of the CPIML, Javed Raza of the JDU, Comrade Kashyap of the CPIM, Manoj Jha from RJD and Asha Mishra of the CPI also addressed the gathering. The session was chaired by Shri Ramesh Dixit.
The third session is underway and is expected to be a dialogue amongst activists to make suggestions regarding future course of action on the issues discussed.