Kolkata: Emphasising the need to steer clear of religion-based politics, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Wednesday said attempts are underway to polarise the nation in the lead-up to the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Addressing the BJP's assertion that 'Asli Azadi' (true freedom) would be realised on January 22, Yechury criticised the narrative, contending that it undermines the sacrifices made by freedom fighters during the struggle for independence. Yechury, who was in the city to participate in an event commemorating the 15th death anniversary of Marxist patriarch Jyoti Basu, urged political parties, irrespective of their affiliations, to safeguard secularism.
"They (BJP) are saying the dream of 'Asli Azadi' will be realised on January 22. That negates the freedom struggle, the sacrifice of our patriots, that nullifies the collective decision of our national leaders (where the proponents of Hindu Rashtra had no part) to turn India into a secular, democratic country of pluralism. Left patriarchs like Jyoti Basu had also dreamt that by embracing the path of secularism, democracy gradually will lead to a socialist country," Yechury remarked. The CPI(M) leader accused the BJP government at the Centre of attempting to transform a secular democratic republic into a fascist Hindu Rashtra.
"But the idea of a hardline Hindu Rashtra is the concept imported by BJP-RSS. The call to consecrate Ram Temple on January 22 is the first step. We are at the crossroads to decide which way the country should take in the coming days," he added. He stressed the importance of ensuring that everyone has the right to practice their religious beliefs without interference. In a subsequent interaction with reporters, Yechury emphasised that every political party should work towards preserving communal harmony and upholding the tenets of the Constitution.
The Ram temple consecration ceremony in Ayodhya is scheduled for January 22. On the same day, the Trinamool Congress plans to organise a harmony rally with leaders from various faiths. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee announced that she would lead the rally in Kolkata after performing puja at the Kali temple at Kalighat. Commenting on the TMC's programme, Yechury cautioned against competitive communalism and political polarisation in the name of protecting communal harmony.
"Every party has the right to undertake its campaign for protecting communal harmony. But by the name of such a campaign, there should not be any competitive communalism. There should not be any political polarization," he said. Political parties need to protect secularism and give everyone the right to carry out his or her religious practices without interference, the CPI(M) leader said. During his speech, he criticised the BJP government at the Centre, alleging the misuse of central agencies such as ED and CBI to harass political opponents.
"In West Bengal, ED is working under the high court's order, but elsewhere in states like Tamil Nadu, the central agencies are working under BJP's order," Yechury said. He alleged that like the BJP, the TMC is also unleashing attacks on its political opponents as they have no respect for democratic values.
As part of the INDIA bloc, the Left aims to remove the BJP from power at the Centre, but Yechury expressed concerns over the similarity between the saffron camp and the TMC in indulging in the politics of religion. "The TMC in no way is different from that of the BJP as both practice politics of religion," he said.
In his speech, Yechury recalled how Jyoti Basu had stood for democratic, secular, and socialist values and prevented a communal flare-up in West Bengal after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. "They had invited me to the Ram Temple inauguration and said, as your name is Sitaram, hence please come to attend the program on January 22. I said being Sitaram, I know what is the purpose of dharma rashtra. Everyone has the right to profess his or her religion or beliefs. As I turned down the invite, there has been propaganda against me that I am anti-Hindu," he said.
Discussing the economic situation of the country, he remarked, "Now poor people are travelling from cities to villages for want of work, and that is reverse migration." "People are expelled from Parliament for raising their voices," he said, adding that non-BJP states are being subjected to authoritarianism. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who were also invited to the program but couldn't attend due to prior engagements, sent their messages eulogizing the veteran Marxist's role in the country.
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