All the hot-button topics of the day, including Rohith Vemula’s suicide, the ongoing intolerance debate, and India-Pakistan relations against the backdrop of the Pathankot terror attacks, were discussed during a session entitled The Need to Listen: Dialogue versus Rhetoric that was moderated by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
Vemula’s suicide, which has led to calls for the resignations of Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya for allegedly playing a part in his death, has been cropping up during sessions focused on the current state of the nation.
Former BJP spokesperson Pinky Anand insisted that Rohith Vemula’s death should not be termed “an anti-Dalit exercise.” Anand commented that such cases, though unfortunate, should not be classified on a “community or religious basis”. Dalit writer and activist P Sivakami was quick to react. “We are not talking in the air. Classifications exist and we must acknowledge it,” she said speaking about her own experience of working in the Tamil Nadu government as an IAS officer. Even there, she said, such categorizations definitely played a role.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, who has been a victim of intolerance, suggested that extreme combativeness was an alien trait. “If we continue on the path of intolerance and confrontation then India will not be the India that we all know of,” said the author and columnist, who had ink thrown in his face by Shiv Sena activists for organising the launch of Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book. “We need to create again the culture of dialogue which was the hallmark of our freedom movement” he said.
Kulkarni also pitched for an open dialogue between India and Pakistan and stressed the need to resolve the contentious Kashmir issue. Then addressing Tharoor, he added “For the Kashmir issue to be resolved, before we have an India-Pakistan dialogue, we need to have a Congress-BJP dialogue.”
Not one to be outdone, Tharoor announced that the Modi government wasn’t “a game changing government but a name changing government.”
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