Writers under attack in India

The example of Perumal Murugan, the Tamil writer who famously declared his own death after  the controversy erupted over fifth novel, “Madhurobhagan”(One part woman) is there for all of us to see. Religious  Hindu groups objected to the fictional portrayal of traditions at the Ardhanareeswarar Temple in Tiruchengode and  created an atmosphere of such hate and censure that the author was forced to give an unconditional apology and withdraw all copies of the novel. In  January 2015, in total exasperation over the continued persecution, he announced that he was giving up writing, and said on his Facebook page that “Perumal Murugan the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He also has no faith in rebirth. An ordinary teacher, he will live as P. Murugan. Leave him alone.”

He however had the fortune of having a highly positive judgement by the Madras High court which categorically condemned the Hindutva forces attempting to stifle his freedom of expression and directed the state to provide appropriate protection when artistic or literary people come under attack, and to form an expert body to help guide the police and local administration to develop sensitivity to such issues. Following the judgement , Perumal Murugan came back to life and has recently released a new collection of poetry.

This was possible in Tamil Nadu and now in Kerala where the Kozhikode Police have registered two separate cases against Hindu Aikya Vedi Kerala state president KP Sasikala who is known for vitriolic speeches and  had said that secular writers would meet the same fate as murdered journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh if they did not pray.

In a thinly veiled threat to secular writers, she had said, “If you want to live longer, offer a ‘Mrithyunjaya’ Puja [Puja for long life] at a temple near to you.”

Why is this not the same in either Karnataka? There the atmosphere of fear is so overwhelming and the state seems to be on the defensive. It will provide protection to the writers, activists and rationalists who are under threat but only after the brutal murder of Gauri Lankesh by the very forces she was constantly engaged with. The warning in Kalburgi murder was definitely not taken.

The story seems almost static in Maharashtra. Even after the killings of Dabholkar and Pansare pointed to common persons and organization, Sanatan Sanstha and the names of the absconding are known, the state BJP government has done precious little to capture them who are absconding for more than 2 years now.

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