Whither Freedom of Expression

By Sudha Dixit

I grew up hearing a saying ‘a pen is mightier than sword’. I believed in it too. But the element of terror which has permeated our world through religious fanatics is gaining ground through cultural zealots too. We have seen Satanic Verses, written  by Salman Rushdie being banned  for religious reasons, Lajja written by  Jhumpa Lahri, being  banned  for political reasons & many other books for  social reasons, works  of arts  for  traditional reasons . All these cases have been condemned by sane and logical people, still the malady seems to be spreading far and wide rather than being curbed. With the growth and usage of technology we should have a broader outlook and more tolerant attitude towards a writer’s point of view. People use blog, twitter, Facebook etc. to express their thoughts and opinions. They can say it in one liner sarcasm – which is hard – hitting or they can elaborate & explain their general point of view. People have become more vocal now and they revel in this new – found freedom. Same

         A novelist creates a situation – places characters in it and weaves a story around it to convey whatever he wants to. It is possible that some people may disagree with those views or depictions. So what? They too, can air their dissent in a civilised manner and utter their displeasure in words. No need  to scream, people can read  them too. The uncivilized and barbaric methods some outfits choose to display their dissent is not very palatable. When it is a matter of difference of opinion, either party can be wrong. So  physical  damage  and  mental  agony  that some  hooligans  cause to the writers  or artists  is  uncalled  for. The cartoons of Charlie Hebdo might have one negative point – that some of them were downright offensive but the case of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan (an author of thirty five books) does not have any such negativity. There was no sarcasm, no offence intended. Madhorubhagan is a story of a childless couple, who aspires a child by means of niyoga, a practice much used by kings and queens of bygone era.

                    Everyone knows that sex is not confined to bedroom between married couple only. There have been flings and   affairs in every society all the time. Those affairs have, frequently been written about. Why then a genuine case (whether imaginary or real) in a work of fiction is condemned so violently? The book was burnt, the author was humiliated. There was no affair & no lightheartedness about a woman going to sleep with a man who was not her husband   because she is desperate to have a baby. Mahabharata is full of characters born of niyoga. Pandu, Dhritrashtra, saint Vidur and all Pandavas are not the offspring’s of their legitimate fathers. Then why  should  a  poor  woman  seeking  same  method  to  produce  a child  be insulting  to Hindutva ?

          It’s nothing but intolerance of certain outfits and an attack on freedom of expression. The attitude of these attackers is reprehensible, it is as bad as massacre at Charlie Hebdo.

About The Author:  Sudha Dixit is from Lucknow and studied at Aligarh Muslim Univ., Lucknow Univ. and Banaras Hindu University. She currently resides in Bangalore. She writes articles, poems in both Hindi & English. Her hobbies include painting and reading.

One Comment

  1. Lajja is not written by Jhumpa Lahiri it is written by Taslima Nasrin.Please correct it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *