Jharkhand govt draws ‘intolerance’ ire after ministers disrupt Jean Drèze’s speech
Intellectuals and activists also demanded an apology from the government for issuing ‘communal’ advertisements.
Several intellectuals and activists staged a protest in front of the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi on Monday accusing the BJP government of intolerance and demanded apologies from state ministers for allegedly disrupting economist Jean Drèze’s speech on Sunday.
Drèze had, in his speech, criticised the Jharkhand government for targeting the Christian community through a recent government advertisement carried on the front page of several local newspapers.
He pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi was misquoted about religious conversions in the advertisement.
Drèze said the state government was misleading people by attributing the thoughts of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of BJP, to Gandhi.
He also condemned the state government over the rise of crime in the state and shared data on criminal records of Jharkhand’s legislators.
Drèze’s remarks did not go down well with Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, state agriculture minister Randhir Singh and urban development minister C P Singh, who stopped him from completing his speech, alleged the protesters.
The globally-renowned economist was also allegedly asked to apologise for his remarks against the RSS and the government.
“This incident is yet another example of the growing intolerance and attacks on people’s fundamental rights to freedom of speech, expression, assembly and movement, the right to practice any occupation, the right to preserve one’s culture and even the right to life and liberty in Jharkhand,” a unanimous statement from the protesters said.
Many protesters covered their mouth with black ribbon to mock the shrinking democratic space in the state.
The protesters at Raj Bhavan demanded an apology from members and supporters of BJP for not letting Drèze finish his speech and also from the organisers of the event for allowing the disruption.
They also demanded an apology from chief minister Raghubar Das for issuing the “communal advertisement” by his government.
They also demanded action against all the individuals and groups involved in communal violence in the recent past.
Dayamani Barla, a noted tribal rights activist, said, “This is murder of democracy. A man who is respected and treated with utmost dignity across the world for his works was disrespected only because his views were in contradiction with the ideologies of the government.”
The protest was also attended by activists such as Stan Swami, Balram, P P Verma, Kumar Varun, Nadeem and others.