4 years of Modi: India’s real culture faces fatal assault from BJP-RSS
Four years of the Modi government have been marked by eroding of the public institutions set-up to nurture arts, promote innovations and conservation of traditions and to strengthen plurality.
The other day Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about, during an election campaign, a Kannada painter who has painted a masculine angry image of Hindu deity Hanuman which has become somewhat popular but has little to commend itself as art of any significance.
Today, the news comes that a sculptor from Maharashtra has been appointed as the new Chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi. His fame, if any, rests on being the brains behind numerous statues of Shivaji and Veer Savarkar and one has not heard his name in the artistic world before.
They sum up the Narendra Modi’s view of the arts. In other words, four years of the Modi government have been marked by, more or less, decline or destruction of the public institutions set-up to nurture arts, to honour and support them, to promote innovations and conservation of traditions and to strengthen plurality.
Whatever the lip service paid usually at the international fora for foreign consumption, the Modi government has gone about systematically to undermine plurality, to curb artistic freedom, along with other kinds of freedom, to interfere ideologically, push excellence in creativity and imagination to the margins and eventually diminish and make irrelevant, the public institutional framework for culture. It has notably taken no initiative in culture, except to promote mediocrity and ideological loyalty on a
The above state of affairs has risen out of an aggressive view of culture that the new dominant narrative of Hindutva, as articulated, practiced and propounded by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It reduces culture to, at best a spectacle, a kind of tamasha, which should at best promote a cultural uniformity which is both against the best tenets of Hindu thought and practice, as well as against the vibrant and vital plurality of viewpoints, aesthetics, styles and forms, visions and manifestations of Indian arts.
The BJP-RSS have created and tried to impose a culture whose main characteristics are fear, mistrust, misinterpretation, assault, lynching, violence, murder, suppression of all forms of dissent, hatred, otherhood and intolerance.
Secondly, the Modi government has, either directly or by quiet and clever complicity as embodied in its silence or inaction, brought into massive play the rather trivial ritualistic forms of cultural behavior by emphasising curbs on eating, dressing, etc.
These moves have resulted in a very divisive society. Certain elements of it can resort to unpunishable violence and hate attacks and assaults. The great cosmic vision of life, the world and existence which Hinduism has sustained over millennia is being reduced to such a narrow vision under which ‘othering’ large sections of Indians has become a daily occurrence. Violence has fast become a new civic style of self-assertion, consolidation, etc. This violent ethos militate against the best norms of Indian culture.
Thirdly, Indian culture is a complex creation to which many religions, castes, creeds etc have made seminal contribution. Not only in politics have the BJP-RSS combine gone about systematically excluding minorities but also in culture. A well-organised campaign with several cultural trappings has been organised, that makes several minorities, Dalits, women and political and intellectual dissenters feel as unwanted, and brands them as and denigrated as anti-national. The BJP-RSS have created and tried to impose a culture whose main characteristics are fear, mistrust, misinterpretation, assault, lynching, violence, murder, suppression of all forms of dissent, hatred, otherhood and intolerance.
Given this very militant and aggressive sense of culture, the arts and the more creative aspects are bound to be pushed to the margins, for they are congenitally unable to support or sustain such a view. And, therefore, the many national institutes such as cultural academies, the NGMA, the IGNCA, etc. stand diminished in significance and relevance. They are invariably headed by persons whose cultural credentials are extremely doubtful and they do not enjoy any prestige or stature among the creative peers.
Never before in the history of the Indian republic have major and once influential public institutions been headed and directed by people who could be described as cultural and intellectual pygmies. It is said that more than 4,000 cultural institutions which used to receive some financial support from the central government have been denied such support, largely because they do not subscribe to or fit in the scheme of the RSS’-BJP’s view of culture!
Culture is being reduced to a spectacle, whether on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, or allowed to be presented tastelessly on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi by a so-called spiritual leader resulting in damage to the Yamuna environs, as underlined by the National Green Commission. The two instances, again, are only several of the numerous episodes of the narrow, parochial and ritualistic view of culture that the BJP-RSS combine has tried to impose and promote.
It is going to be a Herculean task to revitalise the sources of creativity and imagination, which have been drained out of recognition and succour. It is not accidental that the first four years of the Modi government have seen no new institutions come up. It has been a period in which many things, which we as Indians have held valuable, have been maliciously destroyed. Besides, hardly anything has been created which has the potential to endure.
(The writer is a Sahitya Akademi Award-winning Hindi poet. The write-up first appeared in this week’s edition of NH on Sunday).
- Modi government
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi
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- Indian Culture
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- Chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi
- statues of Veer Savarkar
- cultural/intellectual pygmies
- National Green Commission
- dominant Hindutva
- 4 years of the Modi government
- Shivaji statues