Mumbai: A right-wing Hindutva group is trying its best to stop a lecture scheduled in Mumbai on Friday, October 13, claiming it is “anti-national”. The lecture commemorates the memory of the late CPI (Maoist) leader Anuradha Gandhy. This topic of this year’s lecture is 50 years of the Naxalbari arms struggle, with noted Naxal ideologues Vara Vara Rao and Tilak Dasgupta invited as key speakers. The Legal Rights Organisation (LRO) has objected to the lecture and said it will not allow to go ahead as scheduled. The city police has also reportedly shown interest in knowing details of the event but has raised no objections, sources said.
On October 9, the LRO wrote to the Mumbai police commissioner seeking action against the organising committee of the memorial lecture and the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, an association of Marathi journalists that has provided the venue for the lecture. “These are all Naxalites. No banned organisation can be allowed to spread its propaganda like this. We have sought strict legal action against both,” Vinayak Joshi, convener of the LRO, told The Wire.”The LRO will also seek action against Maharashtra Home Secretary for letting such programme happen in broad daylight” a LRO press release said.
A former RSS pracharak, Joshi said the LRO, an informal group floated nine years ago that operates from Dhapoli town in Ratnagiri district, works for the “welfare” of India’s security forces, but has also been closely engaged in investigating the “activities” of different Naxal groups across the country. Joshi’s primary point of contention is that Naxal activities are illegal and hence any discussion around the issue should also be deemed illegal. “They (the Maoists) are trying to afflict urban areas with their ideology by using such over-ground activities,” Joshi alleged.
The Anuradha Gandhy Memorial Committee is not a banned organisation and has been arranging lectures for the past nine years in Gandhy’s memory. Last year, American activist Angela Davis spoke at the event.
Although this is the first time that the memorial committee has faced any direct objection, Susan Abraham, an organising committee member, said the LRO had once tried to disrupt meetings held in Nagpur. “Soon after professor G.N. Saibaba was convicted by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court in March this year, they had gathered outside the meeting hall and protested.”
Sources said that the LRO had tried to pressure the Patrakar Sangh’s committee members, but it eventually decided to go ahead with the event. Narendra Wable, president of Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, said they got to know of the objection only through friends.
“This is a popular event and has been organised every year. Since it is a trust and well-known dignitaries are invited every year, we did not see any reason to not allow it to happen in our space. But since Monday we have been hearing from different sources that some right-wing organisations have objections to it.”
Since the space was booked informally through some journalists, also part of the organising committee, no official letter seeking permission was submitted to the Patrakar Sangh until Tuesday. But following the LRO’s complaint, the organising team wrote to the Patrakar Sangh. “This was not in response to the objection, but only a formality to book a space for the event,” said Abraham. The seventh memorial lecture in 2015 by Meena Kandasamy on “caste and gender issues” was also held at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh.
For now, the lecture is scheduled to go ahead as planned this evening. “If they (the LRO) decide to stage protest or disrupt the event, it is for the Mumbai police to stop them. On our part, there is no change in the schedule,” said Wable.
Sukanya Shantha is a freelance journalist.