“In India, there is a divorce between the nationalist government and the intellectuals”

marianne: The country that was invited to the Paris Book Festival, India did not seem to want to highlight its famous writers. Why ?

Christophe Jaffrelot: Literature for India has become a formidable instrument of gentle power. Although not complacent about their country, novelists like Salman Rushdie, VS Naipaul with his Nobel Prize in Literature, Arundhati Roy with his world bestseller God of little things (Gallimard, 1998), or even Rohinton Mistry and Kiran Desai have made Indian culture shine in the world. However, this sympathy capital was wasted. Between the nationalist government and the intellectual elite, a divorce began.

READ ALSO: Paris Book Festival puts India in the spotlight… and censors its programs

How to explain it?

The government no longer tolerates differences of opinion. The only values ​​it promotes are related to the ideal Hindu identity: yoga, Sanskrit, Ayurveda. In France, the writers officially invited by the Indian authorities are professors who are well versed in classical literature and close to the BJP, the ruling nationalist party, without a national, let alone international aura.

“The official writers do not address disturbing topics, such as the relationship between Hindus and Muslims, social questions like alienation, the situation of women. »

On what themes did these “official” writers write?

They mix Hindu history, literature and mythology. They do not discuss disturbing topics, such as the relationship between Hindus and Muslims, social issues such as the untouchables, the situation of women. To talk about it, the Forums France Inde collective organized an online seminar on the theme “literature and domination” in addition to the Festival. This meeting is not part of the official program…

Cheryl Tenny

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