Kolkata, Feb 4: Describing intolerance as a huge crisis faced by the country, eminent poet Ashok Vajpeyi on Thursday, Feb 4 hit out at the "corporatisation" of politics, saying its sole aim now was to remain in power.
Participating in the inaugural session of the Kolkata Literature Festival, Vajpeyi also expressed anguish over the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.
"It's not just a mere question of having debate, dissent and diversity of the country at stake, rather it's a huge crisis. There can't be a democracy in which dissent, debate or dialogue is undermined, or minority -- not only of religion but of view points -- is under attack and termed as anti-national," Vajpeyi said at the session on "Intolerance in tolerant India".
Among the first to return his awards protesting against intolerance, the Sahitya Akademi awardee pointed to the "character assassination" of the protesters.
"When we did what we did, it was to bring the issue to the people at large because it's the people who will decide what kind of India they want.
"On the social media, there has been character assassination of all of us, as if we are people with dubious characters and dubious credentials."
The former civil servant said none of those who returned the awards said the country was intolerant.
"We never said the country was intolerant, rather forces of intolerance are being given certain attention. India as country and the people at large have been tolerant.
"It is being made out as if we are addressing the government, but we are not. We are addressing the people. Because it's them who will decide what kind of country they want," he said.
The septuagenarian also hit out at the quality of politics.
"Politics has been reduced to managerial tactics on how to remain in power instead of looking towards ensuring equality and justice."
Pointing to the growing violence in India, Vajpeyi said the reason was that the basic issues faced by the country remained unaddressed.
"Issues like poverty, injustice, inequality, illiteracy have remained unaddressed and are now made out to be invisible. Core issues are being made out to be invisible because now smart cities are being made visible, bullet trains and internet are being made visible," he said.
Expressing anguish over the death of Vemula, Vajpeyi said the core issue of discrimination continues in the country.
"Vemula's suicide establishes the fact that places where knowledge must be free, where knowledge must be made available through debate dialogue and dissent, there is such discrimination. Instead of addressing that, we have ministers who are digging out stupid details to tell us that Rohith was not a Dalit," he said.
"In the whole debate of intolerance and tolerance, let us not forget the economical, social and cultural issues that the country is facing," he added.