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On the Border of Fascism-Manafacture of Consent in Roja

On the Border of Fascism Manafacture of Consent in Roja Rustom Bharucha Within the emerging maelstrom of media forces in India, our thoughts are being thought for us in ways that would make the indoctrination of traditional authority figures almost mild in comparison. Market and the state (and their collusions), by a range of media representatives, constitute a form of cultural fascism which is liberal and even idealistic on the surface but dangerous in the hold it has on people's minds and votes. The film Roja needs to be seen in this overall context in order to grasp its subtle extension of the ' manafacture of consent' by which the crisis in Kashmir is being circumvented by the government THERE are many borders implied in this essay which covers a difficult and tricky ground, one that I cannot claim to have fully grasped because it is just beginning to emerge. It is a ground that covers the lure (and the lies) of nationalism but not in a directly political context Rather, it is mediated and disguised through layers of cultural expression which have been consolidated through a ' manafacture of consent'1 engineered by the agencies of the state in the market and the media. As the essay moves towards an elaboration of this 'consent', it also inscribes the difficulties involved in naming fascism in the Indian context. This is the subtext of the essay, an underlying leitmotif which does not always surface but which remains an unresolved problem that troubles me beyond the writing of this essay. Somewhere within and outside ourselves, we need to confront that dangerous border when nationalism becomes fascism, not by denouncing the other and subjecting ourselves to further aggression, but rather by questioning our own complicities in the legitimisation of violence around us. Tellingly, the provocation for this essay has not been sparked by a direct confrontation of the realpolitik or a re-reading of Gramsci but by something more immediate and seemingly trivial: the all-India box office hit Roja, a film that hovers between the genres of romance and a political thriller dealing ostensibly with 'terrorism' in Kashmir. Not only has this unprecedented commercial blockbuster received the implicit blessings and very direct support of the ministry of defence, it has also been awarded a prize for national integration from the government of India, whose authoritarian chief election commissioner has gone on record testifying the patriotic credentials of the film.2 Not to be outdone, it appears that the votaries of the Hindu right in the Bharatiya Janata Party, notably its leader L K Advani, have also endorsed the message of the film. And the general response not only in the mass media but among intellectuals and a great many activists as well has been largely positive, if not overly enthusiastic in a mindlessly jingoist manafacture of consent One could avoid writing about Roja altogether (even critiques are likely to contribute to its hype) were it not for the fact that the film has also been described by a minority of its dissenters as 'fascist'. Now fascism is a serious business, dangerous not only in the realpolitik but in the context of cinema, and any use of the term demands qualification and analysis. Fascism should not be assumed any more so than it needs to be glibly dismissed. The immediate

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