Contemporary India is witness to a huge change in which, space for serious conversations on all aspects of culture, is receding. The advocacy of religious-cultural nationalism has come to replace all forms of culture. It has also come to take many forms.
For instance, the murder of rationalists – Kalburgi, Pansare, and Gauri Lankesh – underlines the contested nature of secularism, and the fragile space for freedom of thought in religion, media and culture in India. There has been a determined attempt to rewrite the cultural history of India, a project that has fed into the writing of school textbooks.
The rise of online archival projects offering alternative accounts of Indian history, the popular cultures of televised Hinduism, curbs on art and cinema, the huge nexus of religion and market, rise of hate speech are signals to a certain kind of revivalism. Writings that celebrate plurality and tolerance are being decried, systematically countered and a monolithic agenda of culture is gradually being established. In the absence of a real space for cultural conversations, politics dominates all kinds of discourses.
In this episode of BIC Talks Aruna Roy, Activist & Former Civil Servant, sheds light on these receding spaces. This lecture took place at the BIC premises in early January 2024 as the U R Ananthamurthy Memorial Lecture.