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Can gap between Modi’s vision and Hindu hyper-nationalists be bridged?

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Narendra Modi is probably learning the veracity of Stalin’s insightful aphorism that while one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic. In a country which has seen innumerable communal riots over the decades, and a 25 percent rise in inter-faith violence since Modi came to power, the furore over the death of one Muslim in a village near Delhi must be something of a puzzle and also hugely disconcerting for the government because it cannot quite anticipate what the fallout will be over a period of time.

Its concerns must be all the greater because the incident persuaded President Pranab Mukherjee to deviate from a written script at a Rashtrapati Bhavan function and call for preserving the nation’s “core” values. The president’s appeal made the prime minister break what the New York Times once called his “dangerous silence” on the attacks on minorities and urge Hindus and Muslims to fight poverty and not one another.

Evidently, the murderous attack on a Muslim family by a saffron mob on the suspicion that they were eating beef has alerted the prime minister about the growing level of intolerance in the saffron camp. For Modi, the tragedy could not have occurred at a worse time, for it has taken much of the sheen off his recent foreign trip. Even German chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to India was overshadowed by the murder.

What the centre and the BJP may feel uneasy about is that even as they issue the routine condemnations, they will be largely unable to brush aside the primary motive for the murder since cow slaughter has always had great emotional appeal for the saffron brotherhood.

As a result, the Hindu chauvinists will be forever on the lookout for any provocation in their eyes as can be seen from the manhandling of an MLA by the BJP legislators inside the Jammu and Kashmir assembly for holding a beef party and the burning of a truck carrying cows and the assault on a Muslim youth who was in the truck in Uttar Pradesh.

These acts of violence show that for all of Modi’s efforts, the communal situation will continue to simmer. Moreover, the government’s difficulty will be in failing to sell the idea of the “holy cow” without being seen as oddballs in today’s world by the beef-eating foreign investors.

It was easier for the Hindutva lobby to accuse Muslims of invasion, rape, pillage and desecration of temples in medieval times, and then link them with today’s jehadis in order to buttress its essentially anti-Muslim worldview.

But it is difficult to justify the killing of a Muslim for allegedly eating beef. Hence the widespread criticism in the international media of this “accident”, as Union Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma called it.

In the last few days, therefore, much of the favourable impression which Modi succeeded in creating about himself abroad with his dress sense, eloquence and tears for his mother has been largely negated by the rage expressed by saffronites against beef-eaters.

Coupled with the suspected involvement of the Hindu Right in the killing of rationalists, the anti-beef agitation will make the task of governance all the more difficult.

Arguably, the realization in the government that the depredations of the Hindu fundamentalists will have an adverse impact on foreign investment will persuade it to rein them in.

But it will not be easy to bridge the gap between Modi’s vision of a 21st century India – a digitalized nation, smart cities, bullet trains – and the desire of the Hindu hyper-nationalists to impose their culinary fads on the country.

Admittedly, the BJP has become a lot more sober than the time when it moved from the margins of politics to centre-stage in the 1990s with its call for demolishing mosques, or the “ocular” provocations, to quote LK Advani, the party’s fiery rath yatri (chariot rider) of the time.

Stints in power at the centre and in some of the states have made it aware of the “idea” of India, or the Nehruvian concept of a nation with a composite culture, incorporating the multihued strands of the religions of all those who live in the country – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and others. However, this sophisticated view is apparently confined to a thin layer of those in the BJP’s upper echelons while the vast majority in the party and in the Sangh parivar subscribes to the concept of Hindu rashtra (nation), where the minorities will be second class citizens.

Modi has been successful so far in preventing a major communal outbreak that was anticipated by the Congress’s Mani Shankar Aiyar, who said that he was waiting for the Godhra or Gujarat “moment” which would set the ball rolling for Modi’s downfall.

The latest incident, however, poses a real challenge to the prime minister because it relates to the issue of cow slaughter which is probably even more sensitive to the saffron crowd than the “ocular” provocations. Yet, he has no option but to douse the flames since the success or failure of his “Make in India” project based on foreign investment depends on his fire-fighting abilities directed against sections of his own party and ‘parivar’.

(Amulya Ganguli, IANS)

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PM Narendra Modi to Unveil National Film Museum in Mumbai

The complex includes a multipurpose hall for movie previews, social events, conferences or seminars and cultural gatherings, besides incorporating several features to make it green and eco-friendly

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India, elections
PM to unveil national film museum in Mumbai. Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Saturday inaugurate the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) that has come up in a 19th century heritage bungalow and a modern building in the country’s film capital, an official said here on Thursday.

A galaxy of dignitaries like Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, A.R. Rahman, David Dhawan, Rohit Shetty, Waheeda Rehman, Jeetendra Kapoor, Asha Parekh, Raveena Tandon, Pankaj Kapoor, Rakesh Mehra and others are expected to attend the opening ceremonies.

The NMIC will provide a glimpse into the Indian film history and help film students, film-makers, fans and critics to learn and understand cinema as a medium of artistic expression in the country and globally.

The museum has on display artefacts like vintage cameras, projectors, editing and recording equipment, costumes, photographs and other materials portraying the journey of Indian cinema since its dawn in 1913 with the first full-length feature film, “Raja Harishchandra” made by the legendary Dhundiraj Govind Phadke, known as Dadasaheb Phalke.

There are also film sets, props, film tapes, sound tracks, trailers, transparencies and a rich collection of film-related literature and memorabilia depicting Indian film history in a chronological order.

Designed by the National Council of Science Museums, it was first envisaged in 1997, and set up in the 19th century heritage bungalow Gulshan Mahal and in another adjacent modern five-storeyed building, spread across 12,000 sq. metres.

India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The museum comprises more than three dozen interactive galleries devoted to cinema and its journey from the silent era to talkies, black-and-white to colour, from the film rolls era to digital technology and a children’s activity gallery.

The NMIC project was undertaken by the state-owned Navratna public sector undertaking, NBCC (India) Ltd, and promises to be a delightful treat for historians, tourists and film buffs from all over the world thronging the country’s film headquarters.

NBCC Chairman-cum-Managing Director Anoop Kumar Mittal said the entire NMIC complex is a potential ‘film hub’ narrating the rich history of Indian cinema in the heart of south Mumbai.

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The unique design features include a unique front elevation designed with inclined structural glazing support by cable nets with spiders and a glass facade to provide a 3D view impression to the structure, said Mittal.

The complex includes a multipurpose hall for movie previews, social events, conferences or seminars and cultural gatherings, besides incorporating several features to make it green and eco-friendly. (IANS)