Elections 2014. The NoMore Campaign. The Signs of ‘Achhe Din’!


a pre-election citizen’s campaign

Newsletter Sept 2013 - Aug 2014

In the run up to the general elections 2014, Saheli was part of a campaign platform called NoMore that set out to challenge the politics of hate and division by communal parties like the BJP and their leaders. “NoMore hate politics. NoMore skewed development. NoMore corporatisation. NoMore forced land acquisition. NoMore stalking of women. NoMore stifling of dissent. NoMore lies about development models. NoMore communal politics. NoMore quashing of the rights of minorities. NoMore enforcement of majority culture. NoMore. NoMore. NoMore!” we said.

A small but committed collective, together we confronted the spurious propaganda being spread by the nexus of media, corporate power and political clout, and thousands of crores of rupees. We ran an online campaign, created leaflets and posters, addressed public meetings in colleges, and developed tactical voting recommendations for 60% of the seats in the Lok Sabha all over the country.

NoMore also organised an evening of protest called ‘Hum Dekhenge’ that sought to ask some crucial questions: What is really at stake in these elections? Is there any truth to the fanciful claims around the economic development of one state as compared to all other states, and of the country itself? What is this development that we keep hearing about? Is who we vote for more important than what we are voting for? What do we want to vote for? And equally importantly, what do we want to vote against? Are there lessons we have learned from our past? What does the future hold for us if we do not vote wisely? Marked by fiery speeches by Achin Vinaik, Atul Sood, Teesta Setalvad, Rakesh Sharma, Nivedita Menon, Bina Pallical, Manoj Mitta, CP Chandrashekhar, Aditya Nigam, the poetry of Akhil Katyal, and stirring performances by Maya Rao, Aamir Aziz, Majma and Delhi Sultanate and Begum X of the Ska Vengers, that was one evening to remember! (Check http://tinyurl.com/q9nnjeo to see the Ska Vengers video, ‘Modi, A Message to You’).

As part of the campaign, Saheli also produced a set of posters and stickers that urged voters to ‘Remember the past as you vote for the future!’

achhe din?

post-election signs of the times

After 25 years, a single party holds the majority in the Parliament, and with it the possibility for sweeping changes. That this is a right wing Hindu party multiplies our fears in terms of the impact on minorities, Dalits, adivasis, marginalised genders and sexualities, and women. Here are some of the ‘developments’ since the BJP-led NDA government took office. Telling signs of whose ‘achhe din’ are coming!

DAY 2. The Home Ministry issues a circular asking all ministries, departments, PSUs and banks to ‘favour’ use of Hindi in social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube... Even better, ‘cash prizes for those who do most of their official work in Hindi’.

DAY 2. Minister of State, Jitendra Singh says that the process of revoking Article 370 has been initiated! A hurried move, despite the fact that Article 370 and the relationship of Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of the country has been contentious ever since independence!

DAY 4. Irregularities emerge in HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s pre-poll affidavits regarding her educational qualifications. (Then again, a pre-poll exposé had revealed Narendra Modi lied about his marital status in earlier affidavits, until the Supreme Court ordered him to declare he was married.)

DAY 5. GL Singhal, one of the top police officers suspended for his involvement in the fake encounter murders of Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin is reinstated by Gujarat state government without an enquiry, to a plum post in the state police. Centre claims no role in the matter.

DAY 9. The first day of Parliament sees police brutality at Jantar Mantar, an early morning raid and clearing out of the Dalit protesters from Bhagana, with ‘warnings’ to the others to clear out by midday.

Day 11. Leaked Intelligence Bureau report accuses ‘foreign funded’ NGOs of being a ‘threat to national security’. Claims protests fuelled by them against development projects have caused a loss of 2-3% to India’s GDP!

DAY 17. A Muslim man in Pune is murdered in a communally tense situation. The rape and murder of two women in Badaun evokes international response. Prime Minister Modi breaks a two week long silence only to say, “The government will have to act.”

DAY 18. Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Nihal Chand accused of rape in 2011 is summoned to back to court. The BJP remains defiant that he was given a clean chit in the Rajasthan police investigations.

DAY 19. Contravening the National Green Tribunal, Gujarat government announces increase of the height of Sardar Sarovar dam. 245 more villages to submerge. Again, Central government insists it has no say.

DAY 30. Union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan recommends celibacy and fidelity within marriage to combat AIDS! NACO follows suit but ‘luckily’ for sex workers and men who have sex with men, says “we will continue the emphasis on condoms as morals won’t catch their attention.” Then on 17 June, the Minister says ‘Everybody, including gays, has human rights. It is the job of the government to protect their rights,’ but refuses to explain the party position of the BJP that supported the re-criminalising of Section 377.

DAY 31. India supports the problematic UNHRC resolution for ‘protection of the family’ which fails to acknowledge that human rights abuses of women and children occur mostly within it. India also blocks the widening of the definition of the ‘family’ to include diverse compositions.

DAY 40. Budget outlines priorities: Rs 200 crore for Sardar Patel ‘Statue of Unity’. Rs 150 crores for women’s safety.

DAY 45. Government appoints YS Rao as Chief of the Indian Council of Historical Research, who believes the caste system has been ‘misinterpreted’ as exploitative and that it actually worked well in the past! His agenda: proving the authenticity of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

DAY 50. Within 50 days, Modi gives environment clearance to five power projects in Gujarat, MP and Assam, amongst them those set up by his favoured corporate buddies Adani and Reliance.

Day 51. Press India Bureau communiqué says a senior official in the PMO will “monitor” Press Trust of India for any “criticism of the government, negative reports or news items that could have policy implications”.

Day 67. 12 Shiv Sena MPs, angry over not being served Maharashtrian food force a Muslim catering supervisor who was on a Ramzan fast to eat a chapati at the Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi. “As no police complaint has been filed... we can hardly do anything,” a Home Ministry official said. Maharashtrian food (read Maharashtrian Hindu food) has since been reinstated in the Sadan.