Freedom of Expression

15 03 2008

Freedom of Expression

Assaulting an Indian dream
Monday, March 17, 2008

Source : Nagarealm.com

More than a hundred thousand civilians have been murdered in cold blood since 1986 in ideological hate attacks in India. Most of them invariably were Hindus. Though Hindus are there in every party and state machinery, there has been hardly a voice of reason, angst and pain raised effectively against assaults on Hindus during all these years, as if Hindus still feel they are living under an oppressive un-Hindu regime and hence it’s better to suffer in silence and be thankful to the oppressors for small mercies.

It’s amazing. The sheer nature of compromise and an attitude of self-denial , the auto suggestion to keep mum if slapped, otherwise you will lose votes and power, has de-nationalised governors and polity to such an extent that a lady minister thinks it beneficial to visit the office of the assaulters on Hindus, sympathising with the attackers but chooses to remain silent over the gruesome murders of five Indian citizens in an Indian town Kannur, just because the governance depends on the support of the assaulters and victims do not figure in their voters list. Is this the government for only those who form the ruling coalition or for all Indians?

So much humiliation and insults have gone deep into our blood that even to say, oh we were attacked not for any other reason but just because we wore saffron, we were Hindus, makes many of us feel embarrassed and declare oh, what’s the use of remembering what happened to our ancestors, it will further create bad blood and hatred. But this is ‘true’ only when Hindus are victims. In every single other incident, its ‘prudent’, ‘wise’ and ‘essentially readable a thousand times’. Movies on Hindu ‘lumpens and aggressors’ are facilitated to bag state awards and included in international film festivals. I have seen a couple of such aggressively secular ‘missionary’ documentaries. It is difficult to appreciate the tone and tenor of utterly hateful commentaries, which rely more on fabricated unsustainable allegations and communally surcharged picturisation.

A precipitated hate against Hindus in an influential part of polity and media showed its first face, post- partition, immediately after the Tricolour was unfurled at the Red Fort. The Mirpur, Mujaffarbad, Pindi massacres of Hindus put even the Nazis to shame. It’s difficult to re-count those incidents of blood and gore and unimaginable brutalities on Hindu women and children. It was so horrifying that Hindus dread even to remember that. But it figures nowhere in media, though they recount world war, Pol Pot ,Vietnam but not massacres of Hindus in the erstwhile East Pakistan and Kashmir. In North East, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), which is fighting to crate a greater Nagaland for Christ, United Liberation Front of Assam and many such fronts in Tripura and Manipur, Maoists extremists active from Orissa to the states of UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and Islamist Jihadis under various banners have been targetting Hindus under different pretexts like in Assam they call them as Hindi- speaking people and in Kashmir its just KPs(Kashmiri Pandits).

And now, we have Kannur. What has changed in this sixty-one-year of progress, secular rule and increasingly impressive listings in Forbes list? Hindus being targeted just for their colour of faith and assertive Hindutwa is a matter of embarrassment. Two recent incidents have made me feel like re-visiting Godhra, where Hindus were victims and Hindus were blamed for having organised their death in a burning inferno! Everyone condemned Gujarat riots where Hindus and Muslims both were victims, but never even for once we have seen a secularist answering a question-why were Hindus burnt alive in Sabarmati express?

Why not a single secular human rightist has taken up the case of Godhra victims? Why Gujarat riots means only ‘Muslims killed’ and hundreds of Hindus killed are simply forgotten as if they were unmentionable dirt? Every single Indian facing injustice, no matter what the colour of his faith is, must get support from all patriots. Why colour of death decides the hues of support?

In the killing fields of Kannur, five RSS-BJP workers were hacked to death in a matter of four days ( http://tarun-vijay.blogspot.com/ ). Those killed were low income group wage earners like auto rickshaw and truck drivers. Since CPM has come to power in Kerala in 2006, 20 RSS workers have been murdered for their saffron leanings. No animosity of any other count but just belonging to a different and growing ideology was their crime. In 2003, a teacher K.T. Jayakrishnana was hacked to death before the tiny tot children he was teaching. On 17th September 1996, two ABVP activists, Anu and Kim, were cornered in a college in Parumala and threatened to be killed for joining a saffron student’s organisation. Fearing death too close, the students ran and tried to swim across the Pampa river, but the SFI goons stoned them so severely that they were forced drowned. Even the women washing near the river tried to throw their sarees to the drowning students, but were stopped by Communist student leaders. Both the dead youngsters were the only offspring of their families. The killings of RSS workers in Kannur have a background to it. It was here that the Communist Party was formed in Kerala in 1940 and the place is considered a stronghold of the Left in the state. Since early sixties, the RSS began its work here and soon workers from lower income group, especially the backward, dalit segment were attracted towards it. This angered the CPM cadre and leadership and to harass and instil a fear in the CPM workers who were joining RSS, the first murder of a saffron worker took place in 1967. His name was Ramakrishnan. I have received a letter describing why violence is not stopping in Kannur against Hindu workers from Sadananda master, a teacher in Kannur whose both legs were chopped off in 1994 because he was organising RSS work there. He is still a teacher, and continues to do RSS work.

From Nandigram to Kannur, Communist terrorism has taken different shapes and shades. Their ideological cohort Maoists have emerged the largest single murderer-outfits responsible for killings and looting ( http://www.mha.nic.in/Annual-Reports/ar0607_Eng.pdf ). Yet they have captured the space for peace initiatives and candle light marches!! They don’t know, a worker killed may have a red or a saffron colour, but the colour of the tears of their mothers remain the same. Ideological apartheid and a policy to annihilate the differing people is a legacy of the Communist and Islamic intolerant groups. This creates a chain reaction. Unfortunately media too takes a narrow sectarian view and sides with groups that thrive on a secular bias against anything saffron.

The entire Europe and India’s anti-fascists churn out tones of literature against Nazi barbarities and make it sure that the new generation is taught about how bad Hitler was. This is considered an essential exercise in secularising the society and building brain walls against recurrence of such dark periods. But if in the same spirit of building resistance to the barbarities of Dark Age represented by Aurangzeb, an exhibition is sought to be displayed, it is uprooted and closed by the secular state power. This happened in Chennai where police ordered forcible closure of an innocuously presented exhibition on Aurangzeb, according to Mogul documents.

The exhibition was organised by a French journalist Francois Gautier, who is an ardent devotee of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, an apostle of universal brotherhood and peace. The purpose was to depict Aurangzeb as he was seen by Mogul chroniclers and his confidants. The secular politicians are afraid of two things -showing disrespect to Aurangzeb and showing respect to his blood brother Dara Shikoh, a noble hearted Muslim whom he got murdered. Its important to recollect that not only the dreaded terrorists active in Kashmir like to call their actions of brutality in the name of Islam as continuing the ‘great legacy of Aurangzeb’ but in Pakistan the craze amongst the anti-India leaders is to decorate themselves with the title of Aurangzeb in order to show their devotion and zeal to the cause of their religion.

This situation says a lot about the dispossession of the Hindus and their severe loss of memory resulting in disinterestedness in resisting assaults on their soul. Every party has Hindus as leaders, but they feel to speak for Hindus is a matter of political loss. They shine individually but fail collectively. In spite of being the victims of hate and assaults since centuries, there is not a single museum of holocaust in this land depicting the long journey of Hindus through indescribable travails and their glorious history of resistance. There is not a single institution of excellence in India devoted to the study of Hindu resistance and assaults on their body and mind. Indian leaders, mostly Hindus, have earned hundreds of crores, amassed great amount of wealth, but most of it is spent in downsizing their colleagues, living in extravaganza, launching missiles against their rivals rather than using it, for once to reawaken the memories of their collective glorious past and struggles of their ancestors to inspire and lighten up a grand future. Its an intellectual war to be fought with warriors of wisdom rather than political gatekeepers and durbans. A community which forgets insults and doesn’t make amends to put up a courageous resistance can’t hope to weave a future of respect. It’s not against any other people but on the contrary a Hindu solidarity alone is a guarantee of peaceful co-existence and equality testified by our long history. And it certainly means a society without any caste discriminations, asserting one single identity-the Indian Tricolour. A Hindu observing caste or region based discriminations and prejudice is less than a Hindu. Make him feel ashamed of his narrow-mindedness. Breaking the stranglehold of caste in politics and social mobility corridors is another Independence struggle to realise the Indian dream.

There can’t be an American dream deleting the memories of Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln and Martin Luther King and making Americans feel embarrassed about their Latin Christian character that defines the colour of the land. There can’t be an Indian dream by targeting Hindus for their legitimate saffron assertions. [Tarun Vijay, TNN]

—————————————————————————————————————

The author is the Director, Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.





Freedom of Expression

15 03 2008

Freedom of Expression

Loook at this strange Historin or is he one and how they shamelessly start supporting and encouraging the jehad (if there is somethink like that at all)

Don’t defame a kind ruler
Brouhaha over Aurangzeb: N Jamal Ansari | Religious and political affairs commentator, Aligarh Muslim University
Source: Dailypioneer.com

Don’t defame a kind ruler

An exhibition of miniatures and firmans of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, organised by the Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism in Chennai, has initiated a debate on Aurangzeb. Often we forget that Aurangzeb led a simple life and fought to save India from rebels and terrorists. Before jumping into any conclusion, we should objectively analyse his conduct and rule.
No doubt, Aurangzeb destroyed many temples. But it was a general practice with other rulers, including Hindu Kings. In the 11th century, Chola king Rajendra I decorated his capital with idols he had seized from neighbouring kings. Similarly, Kashmiri King Harsha plundered many temples. In the 12th and 13th century, Parmar rulers plundered Jain temples in Gujarat.
Coming back to Aurangzeb’s ‘iconoclastic’ tendencies, in 1667, a rebellion took place in Benaras. It was believed that Shivaji’s escape from prison was facilitated by Jai Singh, the great grandson of Raja Man Singh, who had built Vishvanath temple. According to SN Sinha, it was due to this fact that Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of that temple in September 1669 (Subah of Allahabad under the Great Mughals). At the same time, Jat rebellion broke out in and around Mathura in which the Nazim of city’s congregational masque was killed. In 1670, the leader of the Jat rebellion was captured; thereafter, Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of Keshav Dev temple.
We should not forget that in those days victory was generally celebrated by the destruction of temples and idols associated with enemies. In 1579, Murahori Rao destroyed popular Ahobilam temple and brought its Ruby-studded image to Golconda and presented it to the Sultan as a war trophy. So, the destruction of temples in those days was political – not religious – in nature.
Aurangzeb granted jagirs to several Hindu temples. He also constructed the Chitrakoot temple, besides giving an endowment of 200 acres of land to maintain it. Considering temples within his domain as state property, Aurangzeb punished disloyal Hindu officers by desecrating temples with which they were associated.
Aurangzeb is a victim of communal historiography. However, it’s not just Aurangzeb who is seen with prejudice. In most books, Muslim rulers are portrayed as ‘villains’ and their Hindu counterparts are regarded as ‘heroes’ – be it Aurangzeb versus Shivaji, or Akbar versus Maharana Pratap. Their political struggle is substituted with the religious angle. It is never emphasised that Muslim rulers fought against each other as well. When Babar attacked India, he fought against Ibrahim Lodhi. In fact, he was supported by several Hindu rulers, including Rajputs.
It’s an irony that Aurangzeb’s struggle against Shivaji has been given a communal angle. Shivaji has been portrayed as champion of Hindu cause. This is a wrong depiction, considering the fact that Aurangzeb’s confidant was Raja Jai Singh and Shivaji’s trusted commander was Maulvi Haider Ali Khan. So, it was essentially a power struggle between Aurangzeb and Shivaji, not a fight for the defence of religion.
In 1659, Aurangzeb observed: “In these days information has reached our court that several people have out of spite and rancour harassed the Hindu residents of Benaras including a group of Brahmins who are incharge of ancient temples there. These people want to remove those Brahmins from their charge of temple keeping, which has caused them considerable distress. Therefore upon receiving this order, you must see that nobody unlawfully disturbs the Brahmins or other Hindus, so that they might remain in their traditional place.” (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1991.)
We should realise that Aurangzeb was a kind emperor who was fighting for saving his empire from rebellions. His political struggle should not be given the communal colour. So, any attempt to distort his life – through history books or paintings – should not be allowed.






Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb : Kanchan Gupta (Pioneer daily)

9 03 2008


Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb
DAILY PIONEER

Artistic freedom in increasingly ‘secular’ India has come to mean the right to denigrate Jesus Christ and Goddess Shakti, as was done by a callow student of the fine arts faculty of Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda last year. But permission to exhibit exquisite miniatures and firmans related to Aurangzeb has been denied, because 15 Muslims and a bogus nawab have demanded so.

French journalist Francois Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) has painstakingly — and at great expense — put together a collection of 40 miniatures and firmans that tell the story of Aurangzeb’s rule. The exhibition is called Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal records. “We have taken care to present all facets of Aurangzeb, including his piety,” says Gautier.

The collection was first exhibited to critical acclaim at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi. It next travelled to Pune where one lakh people visited the show. It was equally well received in Bangalore where the popular Gallery G hosted the exhibition. FACT then decided to take the collection to Chennai where it was supposed to be exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi from March 3 to 9.

The exhibition was inaugurated by N Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, and B Raman, security expert and former R&AW official, March 3 at 5 pm. Some 100 people attended the inauguration. Since March 4, a continuous stream of people came to see the exhibits.

On March 5, a group of 15 Muslims (Gautier says “they were no more than six”) affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, Manitha Neethi Paasarai and other Muslim organisations, entered the exhibition hall and confronted FACT volunteers who were present there. Raising their voice, they rubbished the show and alleged that it did not portray the right image of ‘their’ Aurangzeb.

“They threatened they wouldn’t allow the show to go on, that they would send hundreds of protesters after Friday prayers from a nearby mosque,” says Gautier. The organisers lodged a complaint with the local police station and the next day policemen were posted at Lalit Kala Akademi.

Meanwhile, RM Palaniappan, manager of Lalit Kala Akademi, rattled by the protest by 15 men, asked FACT to pack up and leave. He panicked after Assistant Commissioner of Police KN Murali visited the exhibition hall, had a cursory look at the miniatures and firmans (written in Persian and hence unintelligible to him), worked himself into a rage and shouted at the organisers, lacing his diatribe with expletives, before stomping off, threatening to return.

On March 6, Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali made a surprise visit to the exhibition at 3 pm. After spending some time looking at the miniatures and the firmans, he lashed out at FACT volunteers and accused them of “misrepresenting facts”. He was particularly enraged by two miniatures — the first depicted Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple and the second showed the destruction of the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

He insisted that the paintings amounted to “fabrication and distortion of history” and that Aurangzeb had never done anything to harm the Hindus. He demanded that the exhibition be immediately shut down and said he would take up the issue with “higher authorities” in the State Government. Later, the ‘Prince of Arcot’ issued a Press statement, claiming, “the exhibition seemed to dwell only on Aurangazeb’s alleged misdeeds and not a word about his munificent contribution. The exhibition would only promote enmity between various groups.”

By Thursday, March 7, “higher authorities” in Tamil Nadu Government had issued instructions to the police to shut down the exhibition. Murali, along with his men, stormed into the exhibition hall on Thursday evening and began taking down the paintings. “He was looking for the paintings showing the destruction of Somnath and Kesava Rai temples. He threw them to the floor,” said a FACT volunteer.

The police say they acted after receiving “three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony”. They wanted the exhibition to be shut down immediately as the next day was Friday. The police also forcibly took into custody three FACT volunteers — Saraswathi (65), D Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47) — although women cannot be detained after sunset in police stations. They were not allowed to contact their families.

The hall has been sealed and FACT has no idea about the fate of the paintings and other exhibits, including the priceless firmans. “I am told some of the paintings have been damaged beyond repair. This is shocking, especially because what we have witnessed is vandalism by the police,” says Gautier.





Police vandalism in full light

8 03 2008

POOR Prince of Arkat, he seems to be suffering from selective amnesia when he forgets things otherwise. History is History and Aurangzeb can never be ISLAM and when he tries to say otherwise and ban the exhibition he is actually doing more harm than any help.

Prince of Arcot welcomes decision to close exhibition
Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Prince of Arcot, Abdul Mohammed Ali, on Friday said the controversial exhibition on Mughal monarch Aurangazeb, which was closed prematurely on the advice of the police, had the potential to disrupt communal harmony.

In a statement, he said it “seemed obvious that the effect of such an exhibition would be to promote enmity between various groups, thereby vitiating the peaceful atmosphere of coexistence of different religions in the city and the State of Tamil Nadu.”

In this context, everyone interested in communal harmony, secularism and national integration would welcome the decision of the police to terminate the exhibition. The measure would go a long way in preventing untoward incidents and maintaining harmony and religious tolerance that had made Tamil Nadu a shining example for the rest of the country, he said.





Aurangzeb and his censors

8 03 2008

Aurangzeb and his censors
Saturday March 8 2008 07:55 IST

ADITYA SINHA (NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)

FARIKH Mirza was my closest friend when I was pursuing a master’s degree in London, even though we made an odd combination in most eyes, for he was the British son of Pakistani immigrants, and I the American son of Indian immigrants. Farikh’s sister was married during the summer of dissertation writing, and one of the young men at the nikaah ceremonies in High Wycombe was named Aurangzeb.

It was the first time that I encountered anyone named Aurangzeb, and Farikh’s explanation was simple. No Muslim in India would dare name their boy after a king the Hindus thought was a real bastard, Farikh said; in Pakistan, on the other hand, Aurangzeb is a hero, so he makes for a common name. We had a good laugh (those were innocent days), and for me it provided another philosophical lesson on the importance of point of view.

Laughter and philosophy were in short supply when Aurangzeb made an appearance in Chennai this week. The last of the expansionist Mughal emperors was the subject of an exhibition of documents and paintings at the Lalit Kala Akademi, put together by Delhibased journalist Francois Gautier, whose conservatism resonates with that of India’s right-wing. (In this he’s not the only European with such views; author Michel Houellebecq — one of today’s greatest living writers — has said he had the greatest contempt for Islam; English enfant terrible Martin Amis is now called a ‘Blitcon’ for his views on Muslims, which have deeply angered people like my old friend Farikh).

In the West, however, even the countless European liberals who lambast Houellebecq or Amis for their political views would become angrier at any suggestion to ban these authors’ books. That is not so in our country. If you recall, India was the first country in the world to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988; the fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini came afterwards, and who knows, the Iranians might not have bothered had India not made such a hullabaloo.

Last year, India banned Taslima Nasreen’s autobiography — four years after it was published — and some suspect the violence that erupted in Kolkata on November 21, 2007, was engineered by the Left Front government in order to divert attention from the continuing violence in Nandigram. In 2003, the Maharashtra government banned James Laine’s book on Shivaji, but not before highly erudite mobs of the Shiv Sena went on a rampage attacking even those academics who were given credit in the manuscript.

In 1996 and in 2002, mobs tried to destroy MF Hussain’s paintings, which depicted Hindu deities in a, well, earthy manner. Hussain has had to flee the country. And Deepa Mehta had to film Water, a story dealing with widows in Varanasi, not in the holy city but in Sri Lanka, because mobs burnt down the set during her first attempts to film on location.

This culture of censorship in our country goes against our Constitution, which advises only reasonable restrictions on the Right of Expression. Outright banning is not a reasonable restriction. In any case, censorship is less a constitutional matter than a political one, and in a highly polarised society like ours, everyone always seems to keep an eye out for banning some form of artistic expression.

Take the Aurangzeb exhibition. The political overtone of such an exhibition is a secret to no one. After all, if Aurangzeb were alive today, he’d be called an Islamist; he spent most of his 49 years of reign at war (25 of them in the South), so you could even say he was al Qaeda before its time. Unlike Osama bin Laden, though, Aurangzeb did not have a business to finance his wars, and so he resorted to looting the traditional storehouses of wealth in medieval rural India — the temples.

An exhibition about Aurangzeb would thus obviously be a conservative project (it’s unlikely an exhibition celebrating Aurangzeb has ever been held, even in Pakistan). Obviously, no one with even the remotest pride in the Mughal heritage would have visited the exhibition. Come to think of it, how many people visit galleries or museums these days to look at genuinely good paintings, and how many of them are serious students of art, art history, or aesthetics? Even art buyers do their commerce on the internet these days; they may visit a gallery for a look at an actual canvas only after a work is shortlisted for purchase. In normal course, the Aurangzeb exhibition would have concluded this weekend without registering on too many people’s consciousness.

Yet it just took a visit by an angry citizen to the ruling party, and the police were promptly at the Lalit Kala Akademi to shut down the show. The result: those ideologically against the exhibition got their publicity; those supporting the exhibition became martyrs and got their publicity; and even the Lalit Kala Akademi, the worst form of bureaucratisation of art, got some publicity as well. You can’t help but be cynical about the protestors’ motives — if you disagree with a painting, then why not counter it with a painting yourself? Why throw it out?

What’s more disturbing is the refusal to see another point of view. We are rapidly assimilating a fractured epistemology because we refuse to see things in the way that others might; it goes against our own tradition of an ontology that is composite rather than reductionist. Is it any wonder that people keep predicting a hung parliament well into the future? Is it any wonder that people feel that so far as inter-religious harmony goes, things are going to get far worse before they ever get better?

One of the consequences of all the time I spent with Farikh Mirza was that I learnt a lot from him, in a way that one cannot learn from reading or traveling. It helped me in my career: I spent a lot of time in Kashmir and in Northwestern Pakistan, and I made many friends that a lot of other journalists might not have. I credit it all to my getting to see Farikh’s point of view, such as the one on boys named Aurangzeb. What is worrying about these bans on art is that when my son grows up, he may not be able to laugh at the world the way I did with my friend Farikh.

Chennai turns back on Aurangzeb
8 Mar, 2008, 0323 hrs IST, IANS

ECONOMIC TIMES

CHENNAI: An art show at the prestigious Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) here curated by journalist Francois Gautier was at the receiving end of moral policing when an exhibition on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was shut down.

Stating that it had received three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony, police on Thursday night burst into the exhibition, shut it down forcibly, took into custody three women associated with the hosting of the exhibition and seized some of the works on display.

The exhibition of 40 paintings, including exceptional miniatures by noted Indian artists, gathered together by Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) were on show at the LKA from March 3. The show included farmans (edicts issued by Aurangzeb) from the Bikaner museum and other material on Aurangzeb. It also contained two pictures depicting Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple in Gujarat and the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

The organisers said they had the right to freedom of expression and the right to exhibit a show that had travelled all over India.

LKA regional secretary R M Palaniappan told the media he “should have screened the exhibits more carefully”. Joint Commissioner of Police P Balasubramanian later told the media: “We feared it might create a law and order problem.” The three women from FACT, Saraswathi (65), Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47), were picked up from the show at about 7.30 p.m. and taken to the police station, where they were allegedly held for nearly an hour without being allowed to contact their families or any lawyer.





Aurangzeb and his censors

8 03 2008

Aurangzeb and his censors
Saturday March 8 2008 07:55 IST

ADITYA SINHA (NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)

FARIKH Mirza was my closest friend when I was pursuing a master’s degree in London, even though we made an odd combination in most eyes, for he was the British son of Pakistani immigrants, and I the American son of Indian immigrants. Farikh’s sister was married during the summer of dissertation writing, and one of the young men at the nikaah ceremonies in High Wycombe was named Aurangzeb.

It was the first time that I encountered anyone named Aurangzeb, and Farikh’s explanation was simple. No Muslim in India would dare name their boy after a king the Hindus thought was a real bastard, Farikh said; in Pakistan, on the other hand, Aurangzeb is a hero, so he makes for a common name. We had a good laugh (those were innocent days), and for me it provided another philosophical lesson on the importance of point of view.

Laughter and philosophy were in short supply when Aurangzeb made an appearance in Chennai this week. The last of the expansionist Mughal emperors was the subject of an exhibition of documents and paintings at the Lalit Kala Akademi, put together by Delhibased journalist Francois Gautier, whose conservatism resonates with that of India’s right-wing. (In this he’s not the only European with such views; author Michel Houellebecq — one of today’s greatest living writers — has said he had the greatest contempt for Islam; English enfant terrible Martin Amis is now called a ‘Blitcon’ for his views on Muslims, which have deeply angered people like my old friend Farikh).

In the West, however, even the countless European liberals who lambast Houellebecq or Amis for their political views would become angrier at any suggestion to ban these authors’ books. That is not so in our country. If you recall, India was the first country in the world to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988; the fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini came afterwards, and who knows, the Iranians might not have bothered had India not made such a hullabaloo.

Last year, India banned Taslima Nasreen’s autobiography — four years after it was published — and some suspect the violence that erupted in Kolkata on November 21, 2007, was engineered by the Left Front government in order to divert attention from the continuing violence in Nandigram. In 2003, the Maharashtra government banned James Laine’s book on Shivaji, but not before highly erudite mobs of the Shiv Sena went on a rampage attacking even those academics who were given credit in the manuscript.

In 1996 and in 2002, mobs tried to destroy MF Hussain’s paintings, which depicted Hindu deities in a, well, earthy manner. Hussain has had to flee the country. And Deepa Mehta had to film Water, a story dealing with widows in Varanasi, not in the holy city but in Sri Lanka, because mobs burnt down the set during her first attempts to film on location.

This culture of censorship in our country goes against our Constitution, which advises only reasonable restrictions on the Right of Expression. Outright banning is not a reasonable restriction. In any case, censorship is less a constitutional matter than a political one, and in a highly polarised society like ours, everyone always seems to keep an eye out for banning some form of artistic expression.

Take the Aurangzeb exhibition. The political overtone of such an exhibition is a secret to no one. After all, if Aurangzeb were alive today, he’d be called an Islamist; he spent most of his 49 years of reign at war (25 of them in the South), so you could even say he was al Qaeda before its time. Unlike Osama bin Laden, though, Aurangzeb did not have a business to finance his wars, and so he resorted to looting the traditional storehouses of wealth in medieval rural India — the temples.

An exhibition about Aurangzeb would thus obviously be a conservative project (it’s unlikely an exhibition celebrating Aurangzeb has ever been held, even in Pakistan). Obviously, no one with even the remotest pride in the Mughal heritage would have visited the exhibition. Come to think of it, how many people visit galleries or museums these days to look at genuinely good paintings, and how many of them are serious students of art, art history, or aesthetics? Even art buyers do their commerce on the internet these days; they may visit a gallery for a look at an actual canvas only after a work is shortlisted for purchase. In normal course, the Aurangzeb exhibition would have concluded this weekend without registering on too many people’s consciousness.

Yet it just took a visit by an angry citizen to the ruling party, and the police were promptly at the Lalit Kala Akademi to shut down the show. The result: those ideologically against the exhibition got their publicity; those supporting the exhibition became martyrs and got their publicity; and even the Lalit Kala Akademi, the worst form of bureaucratisation of art, got some publicity as well. You can’t help but be cynical about the protestors’ motives — if you disagree with a painting, then why not counter it with a painting yourself? Why throw it out?

What’s more disturbing is the refusal to see another point of view. We are rapidly assimilating a fractured epistemology because we refuse to see things in the way that others might; it goes against our own tradition of an ontology that is composite rather than reductionist. Is it any wonder that people keep predicting a hung parliament well into the future? Is it any wonder that people feel that so far as inter-religious harmony goes, things are going to get far worse before they ever get better?

One of the consequences of all the time I spent with Farikh Mirza was that I learnt a lot from him, in a way that one cannot learn from reading or traveling. It helped me in my career: I spent a lot of time in Kashmir and in Northwestern Pakistan, and I made many friends that a lot of other journalists might not have. I credit it all to my getting to see Farikh’s point of view, such as the one on boys named Aurangzeb. What is worrying about these bans on art is that when my son grows up, he may not be able to laugh at the world the way I did with my friend Farikh.

Chennai turns back on Aurangzeb
8 Mar, 2008, 0323 hrs IST, IANS

ECONOMIC TIMES

CHENNAI: An art show at the prestigious Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) here curated by journalist Francois Gautier was at the receiving end of moral policing when an exhibition on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was shut down.

Stating that it had received three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony, police on Thursday night burst into the exhibition, shut it down forcibly, took into custody three women associated with the hosting of the exhibition and seized some of the works on display.

The exhibition of 40 paintings, including exceptional miniatures by noted Indian artists, gathered together by Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) were on show at the LKA from March 3. The show included farmans (edicts issued by Aurangzeb) from the Bikaner museum and other material on Aurangzeb. It also contained two pictures depicting Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple in Gujarat and the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

The organisers said they had the right to freedom of expression and the right to exhibit a show that had travelled all over India.

LKA regional secretary R M Palaniappan told the media he “should have screened the exhibits more carefully”. Joint Commissioner of Police P Balasubramanian later told the media: “We feared it might create a law and order problem.” The three women from FACT, Saraswathi (65), Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47), were picked up from the show at about 7.30 p.m. and taken to the police station, where they were allegedly held for nearly an hour without being allowed to contact their families or any lawyer.





Terrorism through the seas

20 09 2007

Earlier, terrorists would either come in from Pakistan via land through Kashmir or from Nepal into the border districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They would also come into West Bengal or the North East from Bangladesh.

However, now two arrested LeT terrorists have revealed the new preference for the sea route, saying that most terror outfits use it as it is a much safer option.

According to sources in the Intelligence Bureau, terrorists start on boats from Karachi in Pakistan. From there the boat reaches Jafna in Sri Lanka, where the terrorists get their supply of arms and ammunition.
Here, they are also given a makeover so that they can blend in with local fishermen. Once the makeover is done, these terrorists head for one of the many beaches in Chennai.