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Controversial cuts

30 Aug. 2016 11:32 PM IST

Minister of State (MoS) for Culture and Tourism, Mahesh Sharma whose induction into the Modi ministry surprised many even including those from within the BJP, has confirmed why he was a surprise choice. In living up to his controversial image, Mahesh has so many views on what he believes is culturally nationalistic. He has several specific criteria for what defines an Indian culture. In September 2015, Sharma said “Night out for girls was not part of Indian culture”. He added it might be alright elsewhere but certainly not part of Indian culture. By which he also meant that girls should not go out at night anywhere in any part of India. The latest that Mahesh also involves his brand of what is moral and what is not. As MoS of culture and tourism, Mahesh has his own idea on how to promote them even if his concepts appear medieval. His version of Indian culture does not relate to or harmonise with a country that is today among the top growing economies in the world and whose popular sentiments are driven by the young, dynamic and creative minds. Mahesh strongly believes that his views about culture are correct. Therefore, as minister and belonging to a party that is a self-acclaimed nationalist party, it is either his way or the highway. Fortunately, probably most of the BJP members don’t share his controversial views on how to promote culture and tourism. In his latest remarks, on Sunday, he suggested that visiting foreign women tourists should not wear skirts in India. He also advised women tourists not to roam alone at night. If his remarks were shocking, the explanation given was even most shocking. He told reporters: “for their own safety, women foreign tourists should not wear short dresses and skirts... Indian culture is different from the western”. No one can be faulted if they took the minister’s remarks literally. It can mean that foreign women wearing skirts are not safe in India as anything can happen to them and it would be best left to one’s own imagination. Foreign women with skirts and going out at night (even alone) is a sure recipe for trouble, according to Mahesh. Unfortunately, such caution can only be associated with a society of male sexual predators. In fact, what the minister said only brought disrepute not only to India but Indian men and the culture. It may also be recalled that on renaming Aurangzeb Road as Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam road, Mahesh opined that APJ Abdul Kalam makes the cut as an ideal Indian, despite the former president being a Muslim. Sharma made several other controversial statements when he said that the Bible and Quran were not part of the soul of India in the same way as Gita and Ramayana. The reason why people like Mahesh are tolerated in the BJP can be understood from its Hindutva ideology. Sharma vowed that his party will cleanse every area of public discourse that has been westernised and where Indian culture and civilisation need to be restored; “be it the history we read, our cultural heritage or our institutes that have been polluted over years.” Unfortunately Mahesh himself needs to be cultured so that he can help his ministry move forward instead of backward.

   
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