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7 Nov, 2014

Perilous Journey: India’s road to ultra-populism – The Hindu

The making and the public screening of “Haider” as a mainstream film was unexpected for observers of the contemporary Indian polity, at this time of a surge in Hindutva-spiked nationalism. Top-line cinematographers, stars, lyricists and promoters participated in a production that questioned New Delhi’s record in the Kashmir Valley, with onscreen characters even challenging the infamous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). The film was not alternative cinema and has had a full run in multiplexes all over despite denouncements from some quarters.

Yet, with all other indicators pointing to a political constriction of cultural space, it would be misplaced to read “Haider” as representing a trend towards openness. Long before Narendra Modi turned up on the national radar screen, jingoism was already on the rise and it seems set to escalate. By and large, littérateurs, academics and media commentators have gone silent on critical issues rather than trying to maintain elbow room.

India is the largest and most anchored democracy around, and its shift towards a closed society portends a perilous journey for South Asia as a whole. It also has global implications.

Read the rest: The road to ultra-populism – The Hindu.