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On IndiaHangout to discuss Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s almost belligerent response to the writers’ protest were Writer & Film Director Piyush Jha, Aijaz Ilmi, Spokesperson for the BJP and Sanjay Jha, Congress party spokesperson.
Is the BJP government over-reacting?
Filmmaker Piyush Jha points out, "In any country it’s the writers who gauge the mood of a society correctly. There has never been such an atmosphere in the country before where writers feel that their freedom of speech is being curbed. Their protest is to highlight this issue and I am optimistic that we might see something good come out of all this."
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said, "At the moment there is clearly an attempt to stifle dissent. For example Shri Ram Sene has publicly threatened people to not say anything adverse against Hinduism but no action has been taken against them till date. The fact that 40 writers from across India have returned their awards shows that free-thinkers are feeling threatened. The government’s reaction is not of a secular one, attacking writers is the action of a fascist party."
Aijaz Ilmi of the BJP defended his party's government by explaining that the BJP government is being systemically targeted – every incident is given a BJP angle and the opposition is responsible for giving criminal incidents a communal colour. "There is a pattern emerging from all the accusations wherein every small incident is laid at the prime minister’s doorstep."
Sanjay Jha responded with, "The writers who have returned their awards have a body of work that is critically acclaimed. Their action is against the list of incidents that have piled up in the last one year. From the murder of Kalburgi to the irresponsible utterances of Member of Parliament Sadhvi Maharaj, the incidences show that hindu right-wing is increasingly being given space and the government is not interested in curtailing them."
Piyush Jha lambasted both the parties. He said, "The BJP and the Congress have both successfully employed ‘Whataboutery’. Whenever both parties are questioned about something they obfuscate the issue by saying – oh but what about them? Writers in India have taken a stand saying we will no longer accept this tactic of the political parties and the government has to take note. They have very few platforms to make a point and returning their awards is one of them."
To watch the entire debate, click here.