January 21, 2021
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Reflections - East/West, Left/Right

Reflections - East/West, Left/Right

It is interesting to compare the James Laine business and the manufactured outrage over it with the controversy over Prophet Muhammed's cartoons in, say, Pakistan.

Our own senas are analogs of the jihadi protesters. The Maharashtra state government finds itself between a rock and a hard place not unlike the government in Pakistan. The intellectuals who sued were vindicated by the courts in India as they were in Pakistan - except in the two cases they were championing more or less diametrically opposite causes - freedom of scholarly expression in one case and the right to be offended in the other.

And in keeping with that antisymmetry - the cartoon incident was provoked by elements of the European political right while the Shivaji controversy was set in motion by what may be characterised as the American academic left.

It is this last 'broken symmetry' that gives some food for thought. Is James Laine the mirror reflection of Jyllands-Posten ?

There is one aspect of the Laine controversy that has no perfect analog in the cartoons case. It is the faultline it exposes within the Marathi thought-universe - the caste conflict between the 'bahujansamaj' as represented by the Maratha Shivaji and his Brahmin detractors who refused to coronate him and who, some believe, continue to nurse that rivalry more than three hundred years later.

Caste - the oldest divide in indian society, remains her final frontier.

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