The March for Sarva Bhasha Samvad ...

By Prabhakar Timble
07 February 2016 09:14 IST

30TH January, 2016 saw the birth of Sarva Bhasha Samvad—A Meeting of Minds at Dandi, a hamlet immortalized due to the salt satyagraha (1930) which bequeathed to the world  the most powerful and effective weapon of non-violent protest and civil disobedience against unjust laws.

The Dandi march drew worldwide attention and exerted tremendous influence on the American civil right activist Martin Luther King Jr. in his fight for blacks and minority groups.

Dandi today is no more a territory of salt as the topography of the land has changed. However, being the most unshakeable symbol of protest in world history, it continues to inspire all who stand committed to diversity, plurality, fraternity and freedom of expression.

Writers, film-makers, theatre persons artists and diversity activists from all over India gathered at Dandi on the Martyr’s Day to stand in solidarity for a better India embracing modern and scientific values.

It is Goa’s tragedy that some groups used this very day to host the release of literary work on Nathuram Godse, the Hindu fanatic who killed Gandhi.

No doubt that freedom of expression is supreme and the story of the killer should be heard. But it pains when the constitutional guarantees are sought to be asserted for perverse ends and largely to denigrate the Mahatma as a pro-Muslim and Hindu hater.

When the forces of fanaticism, whether of language or religion or caste get acceptability and respectability, the nation and its people get shrouded in regressive traditions and blind faith.

The killing of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare and Dr. M. M. Kalburgi is akin to the assassination of Gandhi. If their killers are heroes in our hearts and the social reformers are villains, India is definitely not on the road of ‘vikas’.

The conclave of free-thinkers at Dandi was not to protest. It was not promoted by any political party. It was not directed against any political party or government. It was a meeting of sensitive minds to deepen rational and progressive thinking and reaffirm the faith in fearless expression despite growing threats and intolerance. 

It was an expression of solidarity for a better, tolerant and respecting modern India. Skilled India and Make in India modernizes the economy. It is progressive and democratic values that will make the society modern.

The Dandi meet once again reinforced that guarding freedom of expression is a continuous struggle. The interest groups working to impose road blocks on creative freedom in the name of religion, caste, culture, tradition and language will continue to raise their ugly heads. The attack on freedom to write and speak or to express through art, theatre and films is more from such fanatic forces.

The blow is severe when these elements take charge of democratic institutions and public bodies. What starts as patriotism and cultural nationalism turns a poisonous cyclone attacking the freedom of choice of people as fanatic forces evolve regressive cultural codes of consumption, dress, social mixing and marriage and tie the knots of such codes to patriotism and nationalism. 

It is unfortunate but true that secularism as a basic feature of the Indian Constitution is increasingly tied to the co-existence of religions. Any talk about discriminatory practices and exploitation under guise of religion almost becomes a forbidden fruit. This is like making religion the God of secularism rather than the reverse.

For a progressive and modern society, religion should also respect co-existence with groups who refuse the clothes of religion. However, religion is too selfish and hence very reluctant to greet and recognize the existence of non-believers.

The approach to secularism should be renovated to mean equal opportunity to all and also ensuring equitable representation in public employment and democratic institutions. It is a good thing to start with secularism as respect to religious diversity.

This also casts responsibility on religion to avoid threats to secularism by entering into non-religious spaces and enforcing codes which intimidate life style and freedom of choice of people tending to challenge the guarantees enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

If secularism means state neutrality to religion, it also binds religion to keep off from all public affairs and restrict to only matters of faithful and their relationship with God.

Rajmohan Gandhi, a biographer and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi put the salt satyagraha and others that followed in the right context saying that Mohandas made the Indian masses fearless.  Gandhi was fiercely fearless and was successful in igniting this spirit in masses for a non-violent struggle.

The Dandi meet was the gathering of people without fear, all prepared to stand in solidarity for scientific temper and constitutional values. It was a revelation that the thinking minds of Gujarat are not ‘modified’ as projected in the media.

The fact that almost all the states of India were represented at the Sarva bhasha Samvad was an opportunity to understand that the intolerance of the fringe elements is in small pockets all over India with a common agenda to instill fear in underprivileged and minorities.

The killing of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare and Prof. M. M. Kalburgi indicate that terror training camps of fanatic Hindus are active and are working to take control of the Hindu society by injecting fear. If they are allowed to succeed, Hindus will lose freedom.

No political party can gain, if fanatics win due to the silence of majority. The 2016 Dandi meet is a call for dialogue to initiate creative work on a common platform and celebrate diversity.  It is also to send the signal that the creative world worships freedom and  will stay fearless.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Timblo's jaunt to Dandi has turned out to be a site sering exercise. Before going to Dandi he should have read Gandhi and understood him. Gandhi re emphasised teachings in nationalism with Dandi march. Timblo uses Dandi as some imaginary selectively chosen invectives against the present regime which pinches his bottoms for reasons known by us all. He should stop inventing the labels of libel instead he should openly come out as spokeperson of political party where his belongs. This third party posture can no more fool everyone everytime.

- Madhav Bastodker, Ponda | 08 th February 2016 10:12


Why is it that when only a Muslim or a rationalist is attacked or killed than this so called free thinkers get agitated. What about Kashmir Pandit issue, what about recent Malda riots,attacks on Sikhs in 84 and many more. What were this people doing that time. Having said this nowhere am I defending attack on Pansare & others but I feel one should remain consistent and take a broad objective view on such intolerable acts rather than espousing for a selective limited cause.

- Parag Hede, Panaji,Goa. | 07 th February 2016 17:19


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