The overarching presence of the Hindu “cultural” right in Madhya Pradesh has come to the forefront again, this time seemingly at the behest of none other than Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
“Culture cops” belonging to the Sanskriti Bachao Manch–an affiliate of the Bajarang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which are the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological collaborators–have gone on a rampage in the State capital threatening local shopkeepers against displaying innerwear outside their shops and tearing down hoardings and advertisements of condoms and women’s innerwear.
Civil society members and intellectuals have spoken against the current phase of moral policing going on in the State capital. Renowned documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and film and theatre actor Piyush Mishra, among others, have criticized the ruling BJP government for patronizing such regressive elements.
“Sexual repression is the cornerstone of any fascist apparatus and not just of Hindutva,” said Patwardhan, in Indore for the annual cultural fest of the Indian Institute of Management. “Be it Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, all of them had strong elements of sexual censorship, mainly of female sexuality, in order to exercise state power on bodies,” he said.
Mr. Patwardhan, maker of several documentaries portraying the rise of Hindutva in national politics like ‘War and Peace,’ ‘Father, Son and the Holy War’ and ‘Ram kay Naam’ among others, emphasized on Hindutva’s collective ideological repression being a reason for such moral policing.
Earlier this week, Mr. Chauhan sparked off the moral police’s outrage when he asked the municipal corporation to remove the “obscene and vulgar” hoarding of a local spa in front of a girls’ college, portraying a bareback woman.
“We are happy that the Chief Minister himself has taken the lead in the fight against this moral pollution,” said Chandra Shekhar Tiwari of the Sanskriti Bachao Manch. “We have given an ultimatum of seven days to all shopkeepers to remove all the innerwear hanging outside their shops or we will set these on fire,” he said.
The incidents reflect badly on the state’s cultural environment in the background of the recently held Prawasi Bharatiya Sammelan (NRI meet). The investment climate in the State, which the meet was supposed to encourage, is likely to suffer from such acts of moral policing, causing damage to corporate advertisement spaces and discouraging investors from coming to the State.