Review of ‘Religious Nationalism – Social Perceptions and Violence : Sectarianism on Political Chessboard‘- Ram Puniyani (Media House 2020)
“Blatant dictatorship – in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule – has disappeared across much of the world. Military coups and other violent seizures of power are rare. Most countries hold regular elections. Democracies still die, but by different means.
Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves.”
(How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt)
Recall Kalburgi and Shahid Azmi? There are several such unconnected looking incidents in recent times that are part of the same mindset that looks for ‘internal enemies’ in every dissenting voice.
Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : Siasat
Ram Puniyani, the affable and relentless campaigner for communal harmony and peace, who at the age of 73 displays the enthusiasm of a 25-year-old ever ready to go from place to place with his characteristic bag full of literature, had some unusual visitors in his house a few days ago.
What was rather strange was that the trio that visited his house in plain clothes on March 9, introduced themselves from CID but were reluctant to show their identity cards and supposedly had come to make enquiries regarding a non-existent passport application, as neither Professor Puniyani nor anyone else from his family had applied for the same.
Condemn attempts at intimidating Prof Ram Puniyani
The Commissioner of Police
We the undersigned strongly condemn the way in which attempts were recently made to intimidate Prof Ram Puniyani by people supposedly belonging to CID. We fear that it is to silence his voice which has always remained critical of communal forces and has fought for peace and harmony.
We are told that on 9 th March three men who said they were from CID visited his home in the garb of an inquiry for passport, which neither Prof Ram Puniyani had applied for nor did anyone else from his family applied for one. What is worrisome is that they asked all kinds of objectionable questions to him and his family members.
Looking at the fact that not only the Maharashtra government but the BJP led dispensation at the center is trying to suppress all voices of dissent against their acts of omission and commission – which has generated tremendous concern among human rights defenders everywhere – we feel that this can be a precursor to involve him in some legal hassles, or implicate him in some case so that he is silenced.
It need be underlined here that Prof Ram Puniyani, who was a professor in biomedical engineering at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Bombay had taken voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full-time for communal harmony in India. Author of many books on communal harmony and secularism, he writes regularly in different publications to strengthen voices of sanity and has consistently questioned and challenged divisive forces of various kinds and has even received the prestigious Indira Gandhi Award (2006) and National Communal Harmony Award (2007) apart from many other awards for his work.
We demand that an inquiry be ordered into this whole episode and the guilty be brought to book for their act of intimidating a widely known writer and noted activist.
( Please send your endorsements to Ms Shabnam Hashimi, firstname.lastname@example.org latest by 11 am 13 th March 10)