Lets not mince our words here, he added. He definitely didn't and neither did Javed Akhtar when he called Modi fascist.
Lets not mince our words here, he added. He definitely didn't and neither did Javed Akhtar when he called Modi fascist.

Mehdi Hasan is known for calling a spade a spade.

So it made for an insightful discussion when the Al Jazeera presenter invited Javed Akhtar and Mahesh Bhatt on AJ Up Front to discuss Indian PM Narendra Modi's mainstreaming of a hard-line brand of Hindu nationalism and Bollywood's complicit silence.

The situation in India was never as dark as it is today, said Akhtar towards the beginning of the interview.

"The space for dissension is shrinking by the day. Today, there's hardly any television channel in India that openly criticises the present regime, it was not so six years ago," he went on to say.

Bhatt added, "The Muslims of my country and all other minorities have never felt more insecure; if people choose to turn their face away from this naked truth, it's their privilege but they do India a lot of harm when people are frightened to speak. There's palpable anxiety in the air."

Later on in the show, he said, "The winds of Islamophobia blew threw the world after 9/11 and I think the phobia is manufactured. I don't think the average Indian is so frightened of a Muslim. that fear has been crafted and structured. The media is working around the clock to create 'the other' to stay in power. To hate the Muslims is the lifeline of the BJP, lets not mince our words. There's institutional bias that's been there since the birth of the nation but now it is naked and the mask is off."

Is Modi a fascist? asks Hasan.

"Of course he is a fascist. Fascists do not have horns on their heads. Fascist is a thinking and this thinking that we are better than others and whatever problems we have is because of these people. The moment you hate people in wholesale, you are a fascist," said Akhtar.

When Hasan said that you could say most of Bollywood, with a notable few exceptions, is essentially Team Modi, Akhtar responded, "No, I won't say that but the fact is this is the proof that's society is scared. Do all these people agree with him, his philosophy, his ideology or what his party is doing? Do they think lynching is wonderful? No. And if they don't think that, then why are they not saying it? It's fear, it's purely fear."

Mehdi concluded the chat with questioning the two about what hope there is for India and Bhatt shared, "There's plurality in the DNA of India. I don't think you can reduce as nation as diverse as this to one narrative. If you try to impose just one narrative on this nation, it will revolt and I don't think any political party can do that in the long run."

You can watch the complete interview here.