REPORT / MIRA ROSENTHAL*
DASTAK: Starting Point For Further Action
On the close of Dastak, a five-day convention and festival on secular cultural action organized by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat), let us step back and take an overall view of what was accomplished during the convention. Held from December 28, 1998 to January 1, 1999, the convention was organized into four days of panel discussions on specified topics, a torchlight procession in defence of freedom of expression, and a day of performances by artists in memorial to Safdar Hashmi. The topics for each panel discussion were as follows in the order they were held: the current conjuncture; perspectives on cultural pluralism ; creative arts and the fundamentalist threat; media and the fundamentalist threat; literature and the fundamentalist threat; nuclear disarmament; perspectives on the Indian Diaspora and South Asia; communalism and history; and politics of exclusion, toward an agenda of struggle. By reviewing and highlighting the central discussions, several key points emerge from which to mobilize further action.
In the first session The Current Conjuncture, panel participants identified the ways in which communalist movements undermine secularism. The four main agendas of communalist movements, as identified by the panel, are (1) to restore the past, (2) to exclude, if not eliminate, members of denominations other than the approved one, (3) to create an aggressive force to uphold the communalist views, and (4) to gain new members through an appeal to national sentiment. The discussions that followed during the next four days touched on one or more of these categories, and from this clear definition of the problem, emerged concrete ways to promote change in South Asia.
* Visiting journalist from the U.S.A.
Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 9 - 10, Sept. - Oct. 1998