By Ashraf Lone
At a time, when we are still mourning the murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, the sad and frightening news coming is that another writer and scholar Kancha Ilaiah is getting death threats. Kancha Ilaiah has now imposed on himself a voluntary house arrest fearing for his life. He is not the first writer doing so, nor the last, given the prevailing atmosphere of hatred in India.
Why Kancha Ilaiah is getting death threats like Gauri Lankesh and as other writers were getting? Ilaiah has been a fierce critic of “Hindutva” and the ideology which has subjugated the marginalized communities especially the Dalits. He has written books, pamphlets and delivered lectures throughout the country about the exploitation of Dalits. He has spared none. From Congress to the BJP, Ilaiah has taken every government to task. In his book, “Why I am not a Hindu?”, Kancha Ilaiah has thoroughly criticized the caste system and brought out the ills which it has inflicted on Dalits.
After Kalburgi, Pansare, Dhabolkar and Gauri Lankesh-all murdered for their views and criticism of the governments’ ill policies and other social evils- it is now Ilaiah, who is being threatened for the same reasons. Kancha Ilaiah and other writers have repeatedly questioned the caste system and power structure and brought out its history of exploitation to open. Ilaiah has questioned the age old belief system of Hindutva ideology, about religion being used as the tool of exploitation for the benefit of some self proclaimed higher castes. The old discriminatory caste system has gotten exposed by Ilaiah’s writing on the subject. He has called this caste system “cultural and social exploitation” by the so called upper classes.
With the threat to Kancha Ilaiah, it is now clear that India is facing threat to its democracy and secularism within- from its own people. The worrying factor is government’s criminal silence on these kinds of incidents. Some have rightly assumed that the silence of government at the centre simply means that it supports this jingoism and hatred.
The killing of writers and journalists has put India and the ruling BJP in a tight spot as it is facing criticism from all quarters. From lynching of Muslims and Dalits and from killing of writers to activists, India is slowly turning into a sham democracy. With the killing of writers and intellectuals, gross human rights violations in Kashmir, India’s already damaged image is getting further damaged.
The terror and violence has taken a toll on minorities and the voices who are critical of government’s ill policies are getting choked. People are just being killed for speaking the truth or simply for arguing on some critical issues. To shut up the voice of voiceless, which question the ruling regime and speaks about exploitation, the answer appears to be simply to murder the person who holds the differing views and pass the buck to unknown and prolong the process of investigation to hoodwink and befool the public. This is happening in India since long time and has only got the pace from the past three years. The present regime is not interested does not believe in criticism and fee journalism. There is no space for dialogue in its rule book. The criminal silence of the ruling party on various crucial issues especially on the killing of writers, journalists and activists is a clear proof that it is worried about its vote bank only.
Kancha Ilaiah has done nothing wrong. He has just spoken truth to power like Ambedkar did during his times. All the sane writers and intellectuals have done this and are doing this to make society and the world a better place to live in, free of exploitation and oppression. Every writer, intellectual and scholar has questioned the authority and power during their times. Regimes have changed and some have vanished, but truth has remained there and will remain always.
Kancha Ilaiah’s self imposed house arrest is a reminder that democracy and pluralism in India is under serious threat. The ideology of hatred has to be defeated for the peaceful coexistence of the people of different faiths and sects in India.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org