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Art and no war

In these days of brainless jingoism, it is difficult to remember how different the spirit of India's culture was meant to be. In 1962, India and China were at war. Present at the convocation of Visva-Bharati as the chancellor of the university that same year, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of 'Chinese aggression'. Yet upon spotting the embarrassed professor in charge of 

TT Bureau   |   Published 03.10.16, 12:00 AM

In these days of brainless jingoism, it is difficult to remember how different the spirit of India's culture was meant to be. In 1962, India and China were at war. Present at the convocation of Visva-Bharati as the chancellor of the university that same year, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of 'Chinese aggression'. Yet upon spotting the embarrassed professor in charge of Cheena Bhavan, Tan Yun-Shan, he took special care to greet him, mentioning the deep regard India had for the civilization of China. Nehru's actions were remarkable for that was immediately after a war when hostile feelings were still at their peak. But during World War II, for example, even countries in the 'civilized' West, such as Britain, tended to lose their heads and imprison civilians from enemy countries residing in their land. Yet today in India, the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association, following in the footsteps of the chauvinistic Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, has resolved to ban artists from Pakistan from working in the film industry until the Indian government says relations with Pakistan are normal. But India and Pakistan are not at war. Terrorists attacked Uri and India reportedly took out some terrorist camps across the border in reply. The two countries have diplomatic relations and the ceasefire between them holds. The war is in the minds of fiercely narrow-minded, uninformed officials, whose posturing has caused Pakistan to retaliate with the decision not to show Hindi films. Few things could be worse than this puerile tit-for-tat for human and cultural relations, for business and for enduring good sense.

Perhaps some sanity lingers. One of the most popular heroes of Hindi films, Salman Khan, was expressing a self-evident truth when he said that artists are not terrorists. This statement is closer to the wide cultural vision that was meant to have been the inspiring principle of the republic. Mr Khan's reminder that terrorism and art are two different subjects is an articulation of reason and balance, a view obviously not very welcome amid official rants. It is the arrogant and foolish use of the idea of nationalism that dominates discourse. The association's president claimed that the members were all "nationalists". It is difficult to retrieve the ideals of humanity, mutual respect and the love of culture and learning symbolized in Nehru's gesture in 1962. For that to happen, it is the people who will have to compel a change.



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