Debating turning points of Indian politics amid Lok Sabha elections

Book launch 1989 The turning Point at the Press Club of India

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Was 1989 turning point of Indian politics?

By Manish Anand

New Delhi, April 21: Three key events took place in 1989 to make indelible imprints on Indian politics. The foundation stone for Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Bhagalpur riots, and defeat of the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress in the general elections turned Indian politics on its head.

Pradeep Srivastava has come out with a book — 1989: The Turning Point. Srivastava, a senior journalist, references George Orwell’s 1984 for his book. He believes that 1989 was the turning point in Indian politics.

As a reporter, Srivastava witnessed the ‘Sheela pujan in Ayodhya’. He was sent to cover the Bhagalpur riots. He also witnessed the ouster of Rajiv Gandhi from power. “The three events pushed Indian politics into a new zone. The Congress on its own could never form a government at the Centre. Hindutva became the epicentre of Indian politics,” argued Srivastava.

The book was unveiled at the Press Club of India on Saturday. Veteran journalist of the BBC fame Satish Jacob unveiled the book. The occasion was marked by an intense discussion on Indian politics.

“I disagree with Srivastava on his claim that 1989 was the turning point,” said Qurban Ali, a senior journalist. Ali said that the turning point for the politics of Hindutva came in 1924-25 with the formation of the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS).

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Srivastava argued that 1989 marked the beginning of riots in the country. “Bhagalpur riots went on for months, and became the biggest in independent India. Riots in Varanasi continued during 1989-92, accounting for seven major communal outbreaks. The country was engulfed in riots,” added Srivastava.

Ali reminded that riots were taking place all through the 1980s. “The Congress unlocked the Babri Mosque to ride the politics of Hindutva to check the backlash for overturning the Supreme Court judgment,” said Ali.

Ali argued that the Congress government had slapped sedition charges against him for writing on the communal politics of the party. He said that he fought the sedition case for 39 years.

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Jacob, on a lighter note, said that 1939 was a turning point. “I was born in 1939,” said Jacob. But he underlined that India needs efforts to make bridges between the hearts of the communities.

Rahul Dev, senior journalist, lamented the lack of space for discourse. Dev reminded that Mahatma Gandhi never shut the window for discourse. “Mahatma Gandhi went to meet VD Savarkar in London. For him, it was important to keep the discourse going for resolution of conflicts,” added Dev.

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