By Pritish Nandy
The BJP-led government at Centre is scapegoating “a secular and culturally open” Bollywood to distract the country from PM Narendra Modi’s failure to control the coronavirus pandemic, said author and poet Pritish Nandy in a blog published on The New York Times.
Nandy cited the alleged suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the arrest of Rhea Chakraborty to accuse the government of playing a game of politics apparently to divert the attention of the country from the continuously increasing number of coronavirus cases, a faltering economy and China’s aggressive military manoeuvres on the northeastern border.
“The taming of Bollywood”, Nandy wrote, was orchestrated by certain segments of media apparently to serve the government’s purpose. Nandy also cited a media report in which Mumbai Police had claimed creation of over 80,000 fake accounts on various social media platforms to “discredit its investigation in the death of the Rajput”.
The veteran author also mentioned a study on online behaviour which claimed that several theories— suggesting Sushant Rajput did not die by suicide but was murdered— were “amplified” by the BJP and “the TV networks that operate as extensions of the Hindu nationalist establishment.”
In his blog, Nandy further claimed that the death of Rajput is being “used” as a political ploy by the ruling BJP party for the upcoming state assembly elections in Bihar.
Following the arrest of Chakraborty, social media accounts “affiliated” with the Hindu right and TV networks, which essentially work as “extensions” of BJP, started vilifying Bollywood, as per Nandy’s blog in NYT.
“Beyond distraction, the assault on Bollywood, the most powerful cultural force in India, had a clear purpose: to force the film industry into complete silence and submission, and line up behind the BJP’s Hindu majoritarian project,” wrote Nandy.
The blog also mentioned the summoning of actor Deepika Padukone by the country’s Narcotics Control Bureau for questioning after her name surfaced in leaked WhatsApp chats about procurement and financing of drugs.
The summon to Padukone, Nandy claims, was “retribution” for actor’s participation in an anti-government protest in January.
“A secular and culturally diverse Indian film industry goes against Modi’s idea of “New India”,” Nandy wrote.
“The film industry is largely seen as the bastion of wasted liberals who are not nationalist enough for Mr Modi’s “New India,” he added.
The series of attacks will “force” Bollywood into “submission” and thus help the ruling party to weed out dissent and liberal ideas.
Quoting instances from past — the Emergency, the Underworld, and the Bombay blasts — Nandy hails the resilience of the Indian film industry and expresses confidence that the current crisis would fail to destroy it.
“I am confident of that,” he wrote.