Nayantara Sahgal is an Indian writer in English. Her fiction deals with India's elite responding to the crises engendered by political change. She was one of the first female Indian writers in English to receive wide recognition.
She is a member of the Nehru family (not the Nehru-Gandhi family as she so often points out), the second of the three daughters born to Jawaharlal Nehru's sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit.
She was awarded the 1986 Sahitya Akademi Award for English, for her novel Rich Like Us (1985)awarded by India's National Academy of Letters.
INTERVIEW: Nayantara Sahgal
Nayantara Sahgal tells Preethi Nair that she resent what Hindutva is doing to Hinduism
Hindutva is a brand of fundamentalism and the Hindu right wing is distorting what Hinduism stands for, says renowned author Nayantara Sahgal who was among one of the first writers to return her Sahitya Akademie award to protest against intolerance in the country. She also claimed the situation in the country is worse than the Emergency era, but said figures like Jawaharlal Nehru
University Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar offer hope.
Sahgal, niece of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, lamented that the Hindu right seemed to be becoming like terror outfit IS and said it was “time for a debate on the tendency of Hindutva to become like IS, to cut off people’s heads”.
“We need a debate on why Hindutva is becoming like the IS. The Hindu right wing is talking in the same criminal language as IS. As a Hindu, I resent what Hindutva is doing to Hinduism. They are distorting and destroying it,” she said.
Terming as “bogus” the debate on nationalism, she accused the Bhartiya Janata Party-led central government of trying to instill fear on people’s mind with “silly” issues like chanting of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
“The debate on nationalism is irrelevant now. Nationalism was needed at a time when the country was fighting to become a nation under British Raj. Then the Hindu right and Muslim right supported British to lay the path to Partition,” she said.
Accusing Hindu rightwing groups of fostering trouble in the NIT Kashmir campus, Sahgal said that the effort began at the time of Sama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS).
“There has been an attempt by Hindu right wing to create trouble between Jammu and Kashmir to bring in the Hindu element from the time of Sama Prasad Mookerjee and it’s still going on,” she said, charging the BJP with wanting to destroy secularism in Kashmir.
“Kashmir was the only secular place in India where there was no riots even during the Partition. It used to be the center of a great religious culture,” she said.
The author also took exception to the BJP’s effort to appropriate historic figures like B.R. Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, saying that the party discovered the great leaders after so many years. “It’s better late than never, “she added.
Sahgal, known for her outspoken views, also held that the present situation in the country is much worse than Emergency.
“It’s an undeclared emergency now. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi goes abroad and says great things. But here, they are crushing dissent and force us into obedience,” she said.
However, Sahgal felt that young people like Kanhaiya Kumar are a beacon of hope for the country. “The Dalit issue has come to the fore now because of the students movement which started in the Hyderabad university. Kanhaiya Kumar aptly said that the issue of caste, communalism, poverty and other issues is to be fought,” she said.
Lauding Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s call for a grand alliance to fight the BJP, she said that all like-minded parties should come together to save the idea of Indi
“I think the time has come for a great coalition like Nitish Kumar said. There has to be a combination of all parties who don’t support the ‘Hindu rostra’ business.
It’s slowly happening,” she said adding that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has undergone a change and gives hope for his party. “Rahul seems to have changed and spoke well in parliament recently. I think Rahul has stepped forward and it is a good move,” she said.
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