Could I be charged with sedition for writing this piece? That question loomed as I pondered what to say about the Aamir Khan kerfuffle. It is appalling that the citizens of a proud democracy may risk sedition charges, as Aamir Khan does, for merely voicing their opinion on the state of political affairs. If the much loved Aamir could provoke such a draconian response from a mischievous individual in Bihar for speaking in India, or be told to go to Pakistan, what could I say safely in his support in a Pakistani newspaper without taking the same risk? Will some remote fellow slap sedition charges against me for merely thinking out aloud about the possibility? A Kafkaesque nightmare seems to await anyone daring to challenge the emerging discourse of intolerance in India.

Aamir Khan is greatly admired and loved for a strong sense of social responsibility in his entertainment work. Rang de Basanti fired up a generation of Indians on corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency. Taare Zameen Par brought to Indian audiences a poignant view of the challenges suffered by children with learning disabilities. 3 Idiots resonated with Indian audiences for its portrayal of an education system that drills students into a mindless regimen of compliance, and undermines the individuality, creativity and sense of purpose of youth. PK challenged India to reconsider the richly profitable trade in spirituality run by religious personages, the intolerance for dissent and criticism of religious institutions. The TV talk show Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails) focused on social issues like female feticide, honor killings of women, child sexual abuse, and untouchability.

Aamir Khan would seem to have established unimpeachable credentials on his care and concern for the people of India. Yet, he now finds himself charged with sedition merely for commenting that his family has had discussions about whether the strengthening hand of the forces of intolerance in the country had made emigration a real alternative for someone like him.

What on earth is going on? The answer is clear to any neutral observer of Indian politics. India is embroiled in a culture war around the secular identity of the Republic, and the forces opposed to that identity have run into very stiff opposition across the social and political spectrum. They are enraged and bitter about their agenda and vision having become colored with the “intolerance” epithet, and Aamir Khan provided them with a prominent, single focal point on which to concentrate their assault.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed into office on the promise of sweeping away the malaise, corruption, and dynastic stagnation of the Congress, and ushering in a new era of economic development. A year and a half later, lack of substantial progress on his agenda of economic growth and industrial development has left voters disappointed. They have grown cynical of what they perceive as Mr. Modi’s big-talk-no-action governance accompanied by aggressive advances of the socio-cultural agenda of the RSS and the VHP, theocratic allies, perhaps even masters, of Mr. Modi’s party, the BJP. This agenda is a muscular assertion of the Hinduness of India and hostility to Muslims and Christians.

Some long term observers of Indian politics say this was inevitable. The RSS was severely disappointed with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayi, who relied on RSS support to win the elections and form the national government, but subsequently tamped down on the RSS agenda; choosing instead to steer his government away from the Saffron programme towards a programme of economic development and inclusive social development. The RSS was bitter and determined not to let that happen again. It was inevitable that a Narendra Modi government would provide cover to, and enable the implementation of RSS mission.

Very much in line with this script  2014 saw virtually the entire Vajpayee contingent, primarily Arun Shourie, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, and even LK Advani sidelined. Sushma Swaraj was appointed to the foreign ministry but rendered almost invisible as Mr. Modi became his own Foreign Minister. Into this vacuum left by competent and deep thinking Ministers of the Vajpayee cabinet Modi appointed a range of RSS approved featherweights; characters who have since distinguished themselves only as the vanguard of a Hindutva compliant India. Haryana has brought in a law carrying draconian punishments for engaging in the trade and consumption of beef. BJP members of parliament have been calling for the death penalty for cow slaughter and religious conversion. When a Muslim was lynched by a mob for allegedly consuming beef, the reaction of BJP MPs ranged from silence to declaring that it was just fate for the sin of consuming beef. A state governor has declared that Hindustan is for Hindus. Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said that former president APJ Kalam was a nationalist “despite being a Muslim.” Efforts have been made to make Hindu religious texts mandatory in schools. In the Bihar state election, the BJP campaign argued that protection of the cow required a BJP vote. The BJP President suggested that a BJP loss in Bihar would lead to celebrations in Pakistan.

This shameless promotion of an intolerant society has provoked a very determined resistance from the secular elements of Indian society. Hindutva supporters keen to see the Hindu Nationalist agenda succeed have reacted with great bitterness at seeing their vision baulked, nor are they willing to accept that their agenda is one of intolerance. Till the Aamir Khan row, however, they did not have a clear target to aim at, and their reactions were more general. Those who opposed them or criticized Narendra Modi were described as anti-national and invited to go to Pakistan, but there was no target to sink their teeth into.

Aamir Khan provided exactly that target and brought upon himself the rage and bitterness of the entire BJP supporting section of the Indian population.

Attacks on Khan take two primary forms.

The more ridiculous is the assertion that he has damaged the national image. An absurd charge because the dents to India’s image have been delivered by mob lynching, and the appallingly bigoted statements of BJP legislators; far more than the comments of a mere actor, even if he is Aamir Khan . But that’s not how the people assaulting Khan see it. I asked somebody on Facebook how the comments of an entertainer could be as damaging as those of Members of Parliament. The response? “Oh, come on! What is the stature of a mere legislator before a top rated Bollywood 'entertainer'?” That is really quite telling. The problem for those attacking Khan is not the bigotry of lawmakers; it is the publicity a film star draws to that bigotry.

The other assault on Khan has been to list for him the success and prosperity that he and other Muslims have found in India. I find much hypocrisy in this, since neither Khan nor other liberals have asserted that India as a whole in intolerant to Muslims, they have drawn attention only to the behavior of Saffron far right that promotes such intolerance. BJP supporters wanting to stake claim to India’s pluralism and tolerance while working to undermine it.

It is Kafkaesque indeed. The Aamir Khan episode illustrates the fact that people who subscribe to and celebrate India’s pluralism and tolerance and worry about the intolerance of the far right. They may be hounded by the intolerant Hindutva vadis but they refuse to be silenced.