Renowned economist Jean Dreze could not complete his speech on communalism at a programme organised by a Hindi daily in Ranchi, after BJP Ministers angrily objected to his argument that communalism was most dangerous when the state itself created antagonism between the communities.
In a video of the incident, several BJP leaders including Union Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Agriculture Minister Randhir Singh and Urban Development Minister CP Singhare, seen getting up from their chairs and shouting at Dreze to get off the stage.
On Sunday, several prominent activists gathered outside Jharkhand’s Raj Bhavan to protest against Dreze being prevented from finishing his speech.
In his speech Drèze had criticised the Jharkhand government for targeting the Christian community through a recent government advertisement carried on the front page of several local newspapers.
Drèze said the state government was misleading people by attributing the thoughts of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of BJP, to Gandhi.
“I was interrupted when I argued that communalism was most dangerous when the state itself created antagonism between communities,” Dreze told The Indian Express.
The protesters called the incident a reflection of the intolerance in the country.
“This incidence is yet another example of the growing intolerance and attacks on people’s fundamental rights to freedom of speech, expression, assembly and movement the right to practice any occupation, the right to preserve one’s culture and even the right to life and liberty in Jharkhand and also the rest of the country,” the activists said in a statement.
“This is murder of democracy. A man who is respected and treated with utmost dignity across the world for his works was disrespected only because his views were in contradiction with the ideologies of the government,” a noted tribal rights activist Dayamani Barla said.
The protesters covered their mouth with black ribbon to mock the shrinking democratic space in the state.
They also demanded an apology from members and supporters of BJP for not letting Drèze finish his speech and also from the organisers of the event for allowing the disruption.