Towards the last phase of his life K.P.Sasi, the filmmaker, cartoonist and activist, obsessed about a one-point agenda he wanted all his friends, colleagues, contacts to work towards. To ‘Defeat the BJP in 2024’.
A few months before he passed away Sasi sent a passionate note to his wide network of friends appealing for a joint effort to ensure the BJP does not win a third, consecutive term in power, when the next general elections are held in 2024. As a lifelong campaigner against the politics of religious hatred and division promoted by the BJP and RSS, Sasi foresaw disaster for India if communal forces remained entrenched in power.
There is more than enough evidence accumulated by now of how religious nationalism – with its dystopian goal of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’- has wreaked havoc on the country’s social fabric. The last several decades of the rise of Hindutva have seen repeated pogroms against religious minorities, sectarian riots, mob lynching of Muslims, apart from systematic assaults on Constitutional principles and rights.
The note identified a wide range of natural allies who could come together to challenge the Hindutva communalists and help restore social peace, uphold secular principles in public affairs and strengthen democratic norms. According to Sasi these include human rights groups and forums, cultural networks, students’ groups, youth groups, women’s groups, Adivasi and Dalit organizations, queer groups, fish workers’ forums, forums of religious minorities, farmers’ organizations, media networks, legal forums and film makers’ forums along with individuals, who believe that BJP should not come to power in 2024.
Though all these diverse groups would naturally have their own vision as well as their own agenda Sasi’s note emphasized the platform he sought would be as much inclusive as possible and seek cooperation to work for the main goal of defeating the BJP in 2024.
In the first phase, Sasi proposed the platform would act as a clearing house for bringing together all existing intellectual, cultural and social materials which could be useful for the campaign against the BJP in the run up to the 2024 elections. Phase Two of the project would involve widespread dissemination of these materials, after careful selection and creative packaging if needed.
The third phase would concentrate on communication through regional languages, formation of state level and regional level teams to continue dissemination of important communication materials at a wider level. If resources were available, the forum would directly involve in production of materials also for such a purpose.
In the final stage of work team members would visit all potential candidates with necessary materials that they can use during their election campaigns for a united action to defeat the BJP.
Sasi had intended the work to start in January 2023 itself but unfortunately he is no longer with us today. However, Sasi was never alone in his dream of a future for India that would be free of the poisonous ideas and actions of the forces of Hindutva. There are numerous friends of Sasi and many others who wish to recover the best traditions of India’s experiment with mass democracy since independence from colonial rule – especially its values of religious tolerance.
In Sasi’s perspective culture was a key arena where Hindutva needed to be challenged. In his own prolific output as a filmmaker and cartoonist he focused on these aspects extensively and in quite some depth. He had very well-thought out and nuanced positions on themes such as freedom of religious expression, preserving traditional way of life of Adivasi or fisherfolk communities and the demands of sexuality groups or women.
For example, while strongly opposing the use of Hindu icons, symbols and mythology for political mobilization, he was not opposed to any religion per se. He distinguished clearly between big, institutionalized religion that was closely aligned to state or money power and the belief systems and faith of ordinary people. Though he was himself atheist he worked passionately to defend the rights of religious minorities under attack from Hindutva fascism, to practice their faith.
He was also very tuned into debates around Indian history and caste discrimination – being very critical of Brahmanical notions of ‘superiority’ and ‘inferiority’. On the language issue Sasi opposed the imposition of Hindi on southern Indian states and took a strong stand in support of the movement for Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, especially following the large-scale massacres against Tamils by the largely Sinhala-dominated army in 2009.
Issues of anti-people development, impoverishment of ordinary citizens and growing corporate power were also important concerns Sasi dwelt upon in his work. Though he came from a strong Left background, he courageously opposed the conservative positions or decisions of Communist parties on many of these themes. In short, Sasi was very independent-minded and in every situation sought to champion the cause of the underprivileged and marginalized sections against more powerful forces.
I am dwelling on all these aspects of Sasi’s political outlook and actions only as a background to the creation of a platform to defeat the BJP in 2024. Involving a wide section of his own friends and others will surely bring forth different viewpoints and approaches on specific questions. That is not by itself not a problem as diversity of ideas is always welcome. Also, such differences can be sorted out through discussion and agreement on a process that allows quick decision-making that will be needed to carry out the activities of the platform.
The greater challenge will be practical and logistical as the work of such a platform will require the setting up of teams of people – at the national, state and local levels – willing to shoulder the responsibilities involved. They will need to dedicate the time and energy to make the platform a success. The platform will also require both human and other resources to ensure wide reach and genuine impact. It will require a transparent and accountable structure to ensure maximum participation and public credibility.
Above all it will require the willingness of diverse groups and individuals to come together and put their souls into the difficult but very achievable goal of defeating the BJP in 2024. Whether we can rise to this task will determine, in considerable measure, whether or not we can save the Indian Republic and Indian Democracy themselves.
Satya Sagar is a public health worker who can be reached at [email protected]