The election of a new government in India is the result of a democratic exercise so vast that any critique of the mandate needs to be respectful. And more so, if it is a pre-emptive one. Yet, there are good reasons why some of us are fearful. Let’s begin with the much-proclaimed promise of ‘development’ and the great enthusiasm among the middle and elite classes for the ‘Gujarat model’. Just for the record, the state has always been among the more enterprising and prosperous ones. And in the last decade, even by the simplistic yardstick of economic growth, Maharashtra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu have done better than Gujarat. In any case, economic growth is not the only measure of success, as a large number of Indians are marginalised and suffer on many other counts. Will their voices be heard in an economic model driven above all by corporate policies? Will there be any focus on social measures that are so crucial for the underprivileged? Will the ‘development’ be inclusive and for all?
While we are being asked to move past the 2002 carnage, there is no hesitation in invoking memories of the Partition or going as far back as Babar! What scares me is that let alone any remorse, apology or concern for those whose scars have still not healed, there is a fearful rise in prejudice and its legitimacy. Clearly evident in these elections is a religiously charged ethos, created through the campaign, revealing that under the ‘development’ story the core remains divisive politics. Amit Shah’s speeches in Muzaffarnagar, Modi’s refusal to wear the skull cap, while he wore every other headgear during the campaign, Praveen Togadia asking Muslims to be thrown out of “Hindu areas”, to name a few.
But my greatest immediate fear is the attack on freedom of expression. Democracy works because there is room for differences that enable people to change their minds and governments and voice their dissent in ways that are civil and democratic. The BJP and its supporters have always been too eager to silence critics through blatant censorship and vandalism. I have personally suffered during the release of Fire and the making of Water. But never did I know that even making a harmless appeal to vote for secular parties would invite such wrath from the Modi supporters. Today my differing view has been responded to by such crass tweets like “Take your kid and go to Pakistan”! The dangerous subtext is alarming.
In 2008, I made Firaaq, a film on how ordinary people grappled with the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage. The film did not point fingers, yet the stand taken against violence was clear. While it got much appreciation and accolades, it also got flak from those who chose to see it with a less open mind. The release of the film saw dismal returns, and I was told that primarily it was because it came too close to the elections. Nevertheless, the film did get released. But today, if I had to release the film, even after the elections and the projected victory of the NDA, I think it would face far more blatant opposition. As an artist, I feel vulnerable and threatened much more today than I have ever felt before. For the first time, I can feel media self-censoring itself, playing safe—an indication of times to come. The silence is going to be deafening and the naysayers very few. Today I ask myself, are my fears truly unfounded?
It is unfortunate that Nandita Das has allowed her personal suffering at the hands of a few hooligans to taint her views of a man who has been repeatedly given the reins of the state by people who felt convinced about his development agenda (The Silence is Deafening...). ‘Intellectuals’ like her, who talk so much about democracy, conveniently ignore the massive mandate of the electorate, charging the man even before he starts. Yes Ms Das, your fears are unfounded.
V. Narasimhan, Chennai
Having lived in Bangalore and in other parts of Karnataka, I have seen first-hand the action of these fanatic criminal gangs, fearing which now even noted writer Dr Ananthamurthy has been given police protection. It might be worth remembering how the Taliban or their like came to power, first by working as social welfare organisations, then agitating against foreign ‘agents’, foreign influences, internal groups/communities who are ‘different’ etc. Then come the intimidations and physical attacks. The violence and repression comes after getting sufficient followers and access to direct or indirect power. But, as Naipaul is fond of saying, to realise this, one has to see and not ignore the obvious. There is none more blind than the one who refuses to see.
T. Nayak, Washington
Who burned the reels of Kissa Kursi Ka, had the script of Aandhi changed, and recently forcibly had several scenes of Rajneeti edited?
Swadhin Mukherjee, Calcutta
Castigating Modi for not wearing a skullcap is a bit too much. Would a Muslim agree to wear a prominent caste mark, like an Iyer vibhuti, just to show solidarity with the Hindus?
Did this princess just wake up from deep sleep? Where was she when the UPA passed Section 66A to block people on Twitter just because they expressed an opinion? ‘Liberal’ hypocrites like her only seem to be worried about ‘freedom of expression’ for themselves.
Krupakar Kolbatla, Mumbai
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Did this woman, who has a thoo year kid, still in India and if so, did she vote today? She gave it a pass in May inspite of having a thoo year old kid.
In the eyes of the intellectually superior seculars, the lives of Kasmiri Hindus count for nothing. Because they are idol worshipping savages and for McCaulay, the ancestor and Godfather of the secular tribe, there was no place for the savages in his scheme for India.
Freedom of expression is an exclusive preserve of the intellectually superior seculars. They want freedom to abuse the idol worshipping desi savages.
The savages can not have this freedom. If they express outrage against Hindu hater Wendy Doniger's rants masquerading as books, they must be asked to shut up.
Bury your conscience and you will be abe to live happily in the world of Modi.The next 5 years there will be more bomb blasts and framing innocent Muslims orchestrated by the Intelligence and police along with blatant support of media.As far as the development is concerned it will be only for the rich who fund RSS and BJP.Others will be sold a chimera and they will continue to vote.No amount of films like yours will change them.Ofcourse there will be at least a limited war with Pakistan before elections so that BJP can come out as winner again.Modi is the most wily politician I have ever seen at national level and with an evil mind.
Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese mother, doctor and Christian, has been sentenced to flogging and death unless she recants her Christian faith. She is 8 months pregnant and has a two-year-old son. Please join the international community in asking Sudan not to execute her for being a Christian.
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