WHILE attempting to throttle and isolate India’s Muslims politically and economically, the Sangh Parivar is also front and centre in the culture wars, hounding Muslim film actors and ensuring their films fail to perform. The latest target of this campaign is the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Pathaan. Groups within the Hindutva stable have railed against the film, while protesters in Gujarat recently tore up posters of the production. Apparently, a minister in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh had issues with a song in the film, particularly the ‘objectionable’ clothing worn by the female lead. However, most modern Bollywood productions are known for their risqué scenes, and the real reason behind the hate campaign against the film is likely the religious background of its star. Last year, Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha was also the subject of a similar vilification campaign, with critics making the preposterous claim that the production’s star was ‘anti-Hindu’.

To ensure that the otherisation of Muslims in India is complete, the Sangh Parivar has been weaponising culture. While once Muslim actors, writers and composers were amongst the Bollywood elite, today these artists are susceptible to vicious hate campaigns by the violent flagbearers of Hindutva. Moreover, while in decades past Muslims on screen were depicted with subtlety, today they are either shown as two-dimensional stereotypes, such as terrorists or ‘Pakistani agents’, or cartoonish villains from history cowering before valorous Hindu kings. It is also true that Hindutva’s shock troops are opposed to all sorts of cultural exchanges between Pakistan and India; local blockbuster The Legend of Maula Jatt has not been screened in India for fear of reprisals from extremists. The trend of using culture to demonise certain communities is a dangerous one, and will only make the lives of Muslims in India more difficult. The proponents of Hindutva want to ‘purify’ Indian society of all traces of Muslim culture, erasing centuries of Muslim influence and interaction between communities in the subcontinent. The campaigns against Muslim artists are only a part of this sinister plan.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2023

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