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The Invisible Muslim: Dissent, Media and the Crisis of Secularism in India

Thursday 12 October 2017
Free to visit, drinks after
WHAT's NEW?! Fall Lecture Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Tracking the invisibility of the Muslim in India

With the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India enacted in 1976, the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a secular nation. What secularism would mean to a deeply religious and overtly ritualistic society was however left undefined. Since the movement to attain freedom from British colonialism was in large measure an exercise that involved an invocation of secular concepts such as basic rights and self-rule and was bolstered by the involvement of men and women from a diverse range of religious and caste groups, the overarching yet loosely defined notion of secularism stood for ‘equal treatment of all religions by the state’. The notion of equal treatment therefore completely sidelined the problem that could arise out of a lack of definition of the relationship between religion and the state. Hence, conceptually and in practice, secularism has attained an esoteric epistemology particularly since the rising tide of the right wing in India led a counter narrative of ‘pseudo-secularism’ predicated on the appeasement of minority religious groups in India, primarily the Muslims.

Subsequently, the redefinition of secularism as well as the question of fealty and loyalty to the ‘nation’ has often left the Muslims outside the margins of the mainstream. This marginalization has led to the invisibility of the Muslim – and therefore, in a loose yet complex way, Islam – from the national narrative. The systematic crushing of dissent and the emergence of a conformist media in India remain the primary methods through which this marginalization is carried out. The lecture will largely focus on the systematic marginalization and the consequent invisibility of the Muslim in India through instances taken not only from print and television media but from cinema narratives as well. 

Roshni Sengupta

About Roshni Sengupta

Having received her PhD from the Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Roshni Sengupta is currently a University Lecturer at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) at Leiden University, The Netherlands. Prior to assuming the present position, she was engaged in post-doctoral research at LIAS as an Erasmus Mundus IBIES Post-Doctoral Fellow. Roshni has published widely in peer-reviewed journals such as Continuum: a journal of media and culture, Economic and Political Weekly and The Book Review Journal and has contributed articles to several edited volumes including Television in India: Satellites, Politics and Cultural Change edited by Nalin Mehta.

Roshni has also published a monograph titled The Islamist Terrorist in Popular Hindi Cinema: Crisis of Perspective in New York and Kurbaan? under the ‘Perspectives in Indian Development’ series by the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. She is currently co-editing a volume on media and literature in post-Partition India, Pakistan and Bangladesh tentatively titled Beyond Partition: mediascapes and literature in post-colonial India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to be published by Routledge India. Her areas of academic interest include culture and politics, cinema theory and representation and media studies.    

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