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Imagine if Partition had never happened, India lost whenever it was divided: Chetan Bhagat

In conversation with Shekhar Gupta at ThePrint's 'Off The Cuff', Chetan Bhagat speaks about secularism, his upcoming book, and literature festivals.

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New Delhi: Weighing in on the polarised atmosphere in India, author Chetan Bhagat has said history shows the country was defeated whenever it was divided.

“People feel ab Hinduon ko insaaf milne waala hai (people feel Hindus are about to get justice), but I’ll tell you… Whenever India was divided, India lost,” Bhagat said in conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on ‘Off The Cuff’ Saturday.

“People at the top aren’t as divisive as people on Twitter,” the author added.

“Whenever India is divided it gets defeated. It happened with the British, Partition and so on. We win whenever we are one. Whether it’s cricket, Bollywood, the Army… whenever we become one unit… you cannot win as India if you’re not together,” Bhagat argued.

However, the author said that the country “isn’t close to getting divided”, and that we’re still not in “crisis mode”, but that there’s growing acceptance of the divisive school of thought.

“Imagine if India hadn’t been partitioned. The whole unit together — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh — would’ve been such a powerhouse. But all these years later, we’re doing just what the British wanted, and talking division, talking about Naya Bharat. But we’re still in the early days and we can learn… I am optimistic,” he said.

Bhagat also said in the recent past, Indians have “changed” and that this shift has worried him. “What is wrong with secularism? People hate the liberal elite so much that if today liberals even say anything good, they go against it. It’s like if today a liberal said fitness is a good thing, people will say no, we hate fitness. Ab hum poora din baithkar samosa khayenge (now we’ll eat samosas all day) because we’re against them (liberals),” he said.


On his new book

Bhagat also spoke about his new book — 400 days — which is a novel in the mystery and thriller genre, as opposed to the romance genre Bhagat is known for. Asked if writing in a new genre was particularly challenging, Bhagat said, “the only genre I believe in is the Chetan Bhagat genre”.

The author delved into the creative process of writing in a fresh genre. “I know love, I’ve felt love, but I don’t know what a murderer feels like when he kills someone… How do I know that without committing murder? I had to learn a lot… I read a lot of thrillers like Alfred Hitchcock to Agatha Christie… and that really helped me write this, because this is a new avatar,” he said.

On literature festivals

Bhagat also spoke his mind on the literature festivals in India and said if there’s one good thing Covid has done, it is their suspension. Bhagat went on to say that literature festivals are typically just elite parties, where people of the same opinion talk and recycle the same thought process over and over. He also said literature festivals provide no space for Right-wing opinion, adding that such fests “depress” him.

“The stated purpose of lit fests is to take reading to the people. But what ends up happening is more exclusivity, more elite gatherings, more of the same thought process,” he said.

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)


Also read: Govts around the world have learnt language of ‘greenwashing’, especially India: Amitav Ghosh


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