Author Nayantara Sahgal on Saturday criticised the Narendra Modi government for not being open-minded and termed the current situation of “attack on dissent” as the “Indian brand of fascism”.
“The way things are proceeding now, under Hindutva, I am just waiting for the day when the culture minister puts sarees on the naked statues at Khajuraho… so that might happen too,” Sahgal said at a discussion during the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet.
Launching a scathing attack on the Modi government, she said former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpeyee was open-minded but under the present regime, there was no space for discussions and debates.
“Vajpeyee was a man with an open mind. The present regime is not open-minded. Hindutva, which is the ruling ideology today, not only is it not Hindusim but we were never told during the last election that this was going to be the ruling policy. The last election was all about development,” she said.
Sahgal was one of the first authors to return her Sahitya Akademi award in protest against “growing intolerance” in the country.
“Dissent is under attack and by that, I mean it is either greeted with sticks and stones or with black paint or with murder,” she said.
“The government is either silent, which is its answer to this horrible problem or it is defending its Hindutva ideology which is not Hinduism. Hindutva is a very narrow concept which says ‘thou shalt not have other gods before me’.”
“I think this is the situation we are in today and this is a very dangerous situation for any country. I call it the Indian brand of fascism.”
Asked whether one has the right to offend somebody through one’s works, Sahgal asserted that one has the right to do so with non-violence.
“We have the right to give offence in writing, through painting or any form of art or scientific discoveries but the point is in a democratic society all this must proceed with non-violence. Violence is being used by those who do not like disagreement and this must be stopped,” she explained.
Sahgal, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, stressed it was not the time to pull back from hurting sentiments.
“We have to hurt sentiments. It is high time that we hurt sentiments. If we had been worrying about hurting sentiments we would still be burning widows,” she said.
The author also drew attention to the trend of mob censorship.
“Censorship used to apply to books, to films and things of that sort. But today it is the mob that decides what is going to be censored,” she said.
On the Modi government declassifying files on Subhas Chandra Bose, Sahgal stuck to the plane crash (in 1945) theory of death.
“The whole truth about Netaji is he died in that crash and nobody needs to be concerned about anything else, better tell Modi … Bose died in that plane crash,” she said.
She also refuted the Sahitya Akademi’s claim that she had agreed to take back the award she had returned in protest.
“The Sahitya Akademi has suddenly decided that it is not their policy to accept returned awards. So why did they not say so three months ago?” she posed.