Seeking Offense: Censorship And The Constitution Of Democratic Politics In India

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Commentators have frequently suggested that India is going through an "age of intolerance" as writers, artists, filmmakers, scholars and journalists among others have been targeted by institutions of the state as well as political parties and interest groups for hurting the sentiments of some section of Indian society. However, this age of intolerance has coincided with a period that has also been characterized by the "deepening" of Indian democracy, as previously subordinated groups have begun to participate more actively and substantively in democratic politics. This project is an attempt to understand the reasons for the persistence of illiberalism in Indian politics, particularly as manifest in censorship practices. It argues that one of the reasons why censorship has persisted in India is that having the "right to censor" has come be established in the Indian constitutional order's negotiation of multiculturalism as a symbol of a cultural group's substantive political empowerment. This feature of the Indian constitutional order has made the strategy of "seeking offense" readily available to India's politicians, who understand it to be an efficacious way to discredit their competitors' claims of group representativeness within the context of democratic identity politics. The findings of the project have important implications for theories of ethnic party politics and the literature on the relationship between democracy, liberalism and the accommodation of cultural diversity. It also points to the need to rethink the relationship between India's past and present.
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