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West Bengal experiencing near dictatorship: Activist Shabnam Hashmi
Saturday March 29, 2014 9:46 PM, IANS

Describing BJP leader Narendra Modi as the biggest threat to secularism in India, noted social activist Shabnam Hashmi Saturday also charged the the Mamata Banerjee regime in West Bengal was turning "authoritarian and dictatorial".

"After working in Gujarat for the past 12 years, I know how authoritarian and vindictive Modi is. There is absolute tyranny there. Unfortunately, the present scenario in Bengal is very close to dictatorship, very close to authoritarianism.

"Bengal is no more what it used to be, voices of dissent are being muffled, the land known for its tolerance, is steadily denying freedom of expression," Hashmi said at an event to mark the 60th birth anniversary of slain communist playwright and actor Safdar Hashmi credited with popularising street theatre in the country.

Titled "Halla Bol" after Safdar Hashmi's last street play, the event witnessed the participation of several eminent persons including noted Bengali actor and director Rudraprasad Sengupta and painter Wasim Kapoor.

Iconic Bengali film and stage actor Soumitra Chatterjee, who could not be present for the occasion, sent a message extending support to the event.

Shabnam also expressed her dismay over a large number of intellectuals becoming pro-establishment in Bengal.

"It is amazing and equally shocking to see a large number of intellectuals here have become part of the establishment and are speaking in its favour. The intellectual community is known for speaking against the establishment, it acts as a corrective group.

"But intellectuals become part of the establishment only when there is dictatorship," said Hashmi, who along with several social activists, artists and writers, has launched a national campaign for secularism under the platform of Janvadi Vichar Andolan Bharat (JAVAB) to defeat communal forces in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

"Modi is the biggest threat to secularism and it will be unfortunate and alarming for the country, if he goes on to become the prime minister. There is a need to fight communalism and fascism which has been steadily rising in the country," said Hashmi as she rubbished claims of Gujarat's all round development.

"The ground realities are far from what has been projected. Nearly 40 percent of the population lives below poverty line, there is widespread unemployment, malnourishment. The man who cannot run his state is aspiring to run the country," she added.

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