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Ashok Malik in the Hindustan Times:
The Internet Hindu has blogged and tweeted and emailed exultantly about the defeat and exile of Husain. In parallel, a new campaign has gathered momentum, centred on a new hate figure: Wendy Doniger.
Why are these Internet Hindus worthy of notice at all? There are three reasons. First, a collective of the intellectually inadequate, the professionally frustrated and the plain bigoted, they represent the collapse of Hindu politico-intellectual space into a caricature of the very Talibanism it opposes.
Second, as Hindutva as an idea has contracted in real-world politics, it has become shrill and over-the-top in cyberspace. The Left has its universities, journals and institutional support system. It is a commentary on Internet Hindus that they only have multiple email accounts.
Third, there is a hard question for the BJP. How quickly can it delink itself from Internet Hindus and their offline equivalents? A party that seeks to build broad-spectrum opposition unity in Parliament on governance issues can do without such viral downloads.
Just a few days back, incidentally, Swapan Dasgupta, another journalist considered close to the BJP and a party strategist, had this to say in the Telegraph:
In the past decade, the threshold of tolerance in India has been lowered considerably — thanks in no small degree to the takeover of the internet by competitive extremists. ‘Sensitivity to faith’ has come to mean accommodation of organized blackmail.
The successful anti-Husain and anti-Taslima protests have to be seen in the context of a progressive shrinking of the enlightened public space. India imagined it would be a world player on the strength of its ‘soft power’. Today, that power is being steadily undermined by the clash of rival ghettos. The nonsense has gone on far too long and has touched dangerous heights. It’s time the country extends democratic rights to those who offend fragile sensitivities.
Earlier, while discussing the outrage and violence caused in the aftermath of the publication of an unauthorised translation of a Taslima Nasreen article by
On Monday, Siasat, whose Karnataka edition is managed by Congress leader Roshan Baig, published a report alleging that the Kannada daily had published derogatory remarks against Muslims in the Sunday piece....
Baig said his paper only carried a news item on the Kannada paper’s coverage. “It’s a 2007 article by Taslima Nasreen, which has been up on some hardline Hindu websites and was carried very prominently by Kannada Prabha on Sunday, with a provocative headline from an old Hindi song ‘Purdah hai Purdah’, and pictures of women in burqas. My paper just carried a news item on that coverage which was printed on Monday,” Baig said.
“My mother had passed away on Sunday, so I was not in the office or overseeing things that day. Otherwise, I may have ensured that this was not carried. Anyway, what we carried was a brief report,” he said.
According to Baig, his newspaper cannot be connected to the violence in Shimoga. “It had nothing to do with our coverage as our paper reaches Shimoga only by about 12 noon or 1 pm. Urdu is also not read that much by Muslims in that part of the state. They are mostly Kannada-speaking. There is no way our paper could have contributed to the outrage,” he said.
sections I53A, 153B and 295A of the IPC
Derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad and his wives: women told to burn the burqas
Bangalore, March 1: (Siasat News)
Kannada Prabha, the Kannada daily which has earned ignominy for its anti-Muslim write-ups, has in its weekly pullout, Sapthahika Prabha, crossed all limits while launching a personal tirade against Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
The article titled “Pardah hai Pardah” is authored by the god-damned and Murthad (one who has transgressed the boundaries of Islam) author Taslima Nasreen and translated into Kannada by Sindhu. On the one hand the article launches unpardonable attacks against Prophet’s personality, on the other it makes derogatory remarks about Hazrat Khadeejatul Kubra and other wives of the prophet (Ummahatul Mu’mineen meaning mothers of the believers).
The article contains fictitious findings about how the system of parda came into being and also launches a tirade against the character of prophet’s wives especially Hazrath Khadeejatul Kubra and Hazrath Ayisha. Besides, the companions of prophet Muhammad (also called the Sahabas) have also been accused of looking at Hazrath Ayisha with licentious eyes.
Opposing the system of Parda the article claims that it was introduced about 1,500 years ago by someone for his selfish motives and with a view to protect his own women. Is it necessary that all the Muslims should follow the same system until the day of resurrection (Khiyamat)? the writer asks.
Accusing Islam of denying women their rights, the article says Muslim women have been caged within four walls of the house or tied inside their kitchens. The writer also dubs Parda as an insult on women and says it casts doubts about the character of menfolk. Urging Muslim women to demand their rights, the article urges them to burn Burkas as a first step in this regard. Otherwise they would not be left with any option, the writer says.
This highly provocative article has sparked concerns across Muslim circles.
Incidentally, the other news item on the front page is about the death of Mr Roshan Baig's mother. Whether or not this article played any part in the outrage and violence in Shimoga is immaterial; this brief report certainly seems to present a distorted and inflammatory view of the original article under question.
Incidentally, today's Indian Express has a very incisive piece by Pratap Bhanu Mehta:
Few things are more crooked in India than the discourse on free speech and its relation to violence. Rather than focusing on the basic framework governing speech, the debate quickly descends into the politics of double standards. There is no question that M.F. Husain’s departure from India is a serious indictment of India’s claims as a liberal democracy, and especially the ability of the state to protect those exercising their rights. But this fundamental issue was obscured by three issues that govern the politics of double standards.
After detailing these double-standards, the piece also briefly addresses l'affaire Taslima:
The incidents in Shimoga have once again brought this question to the fore. There is a technical issue of whether Taslima Nasreen’s piece was used with proper authorisation and in proper context. But the ease with which the appearance of the piece sparked off violence by intolerant groups ought to be an abomination to our democracy. But the state’s reaction is typical: legitimise the violence by classifying the purported article as the culprit rather than those who took offence at it and engaged in violence.
It's a must-read piece because it elevates the discourse on recent cases involving freespeech. It goes on to discuss R.V. Bhasin vs state of Maharashtra, and how our legal provisions on controlling free speech induce, rather than diminish, competitive communal politics, and create a culture of mischief and concludes by saying:
And religious believers commit the ultimate blasphemy by thinking that they need to protect their gods rather than their gods protecting them.
If one were to offer gratuitous advice to Siasat, it would certainly include translating this piece and carrying it in full as a penance!
Vir Saghvi puts l'affaire Husain in context in his characteristic, lucid style:
Now that he has chosen to live in Qatar, the Hindutva-wallahs will ask the obvious questions: How much freedom will he have there? Of course the Arabs will let him paint naked Hindu goddesses. But will they let him paint anything that even remotely offends Muslims? Anything that offends the royal family? Nude portraits of previous rulers of Qatar? Or even, nude portraits of Arab women?
These are crude questions. But sadly, the answers are as crude. Husain will have no artistic freedom in Qatar. He will be no more than a court painter to a medieval monarch. So has he chosen to live in a society that values the artistic freedom that he says he is denied in India? Or has he just taken the soft, very profitable, option and forgotten all about artistic freedom?
These are troubling questions and I think they will worry many of us who have spoken up so vociferously in Husain’s defence for so many years. From what I can tell, the threat of nuisance litigation has now retreated after the Supreme Court has intervened. Nor is India a particularly unsafe place. The Home Secretary has now offered Husain as much security as he needs.
So here’s my view: if he wants to stay abroad, fine. That’s reasonable. But he should not turn his back on his own country. He should not surrender his Indian nationality and opt for a passport offered by an undemocratic regime – all in the name of artistic freedom.
The battle for Indian secularism and free speech must be fought here, in India. And not at the feet of some Middle Eastern monarch.
Couldn't agree more on almost everything in this piece although I am not sure where the figure of "almost 900 cases" is coming from. As the Hindu pointed out a couple of days back, "several cases were reportedly filed against Mr. Husain, only seven registered in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi came to light through the media as the courts had summoned Mr. Husain."
Of the seven cases, four were quashed by the Delhi High Court in May 2008 in a refreshingly worded judgement by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul which had been upheld by the Supreme Court and there are apparently only three minor cases against Husain pending in lower courts which, going by the judiciary's response, were clearly not the worrying factor.
Granted, even to have to fight one legal case is needless harassment, particularly for one as old as Husain at 95, who also definitely faced threats to his physical safety - and the UPA's response to the cases against Husain was abysmally craven even by its own low standards on free speech - but while it may have been hard for Husain to continue living and working here, it was not impossible. One can bemoan the fact that he did not feel safe in India - it is easy to be magisterial and dismissive and my intention here is not to discount or diminish the very genuine threats he faced here from criminals and goons - and that the UPA should have aggressively taken action against those who threatened him -- but the choice of Qatar citizenshop is most inexplicable and can not be defended even remotely on the grounds of greater artistic freedom! Clearly, the only winners in this will be those inciting other against Husein -- the Bajrang Dal et al -- who would now be emboldened even more thinking that they can bully anyone into submission.
Also See from Outlook Archives:
March 2008: Why does no one speak up for his basic freedoms?
May 2008: 'There Should Be Freedom For The Thought We Hate': Full text of the Delhi High Court judgement quashing "the summoning orders and warrants of arrest" issued against M. F. Hussain, which went on to add that 'Freedom Of speech has no meaning if there is no freedom after speech'
Post Script: March 3, 2010: Kishore Singh in the Business Standard
Maybe Husain is right in fearing for his life — he, after all, is the one who has been threatened — but we must not forget that it is possible he is playing to the galleries. And at the bottom of that might be something Husain is very smart about: fiscal prudence.
March 3, 2010: M.F. Husain speaks to NDTV:
"If I were 40 years old, I would have fought them tooth and nail...but now I need to concentrate and need all the comforts... I never said that India rejected me... It was largely a practical decision ... I would have had to become an NRI.. sponsors... taxes... etc"