Fundamental issues: Burqa dutt, Selective appliance of Freedom of expression

24 11 2007

As ironies go, it probably doesn’t get any better than this. A panic-stricken Marxist government bundling up a feminist Muslim writer in the swathes of a protective black burqa and parceling her off to a state ruled by the BJP — a party that the Left would otherwise have you believe is full of religious bigots.

The veil on her head must have caused Taslima Nasreen almost as much discomfort as the goons hunting her down. She once famously took on the ‘freedom of choice’ school of India’s Muslim intelligentsia by writing that “covering a woman’s head means covering her brain and ensuring that it doesn’t work”. She’s always argued that whether or not Islam sanctifies the purdah is not the point. A shroud designed to throttle a woman’s sexuality, she says, must be stripped off irrespective. In a signed piece in the Outlook called ‘Let’s Burn the Burqa’, Nasreen took on liberal activists like Shabana Azmi (who has enraged enough mad mullahs herself to know exactly what it feels like) for playing too safe on the veil.

So, does that make some of you feel that she’s only got what she asked for?Or do we need to shamefully concede that the public discourse on creative freedom and individual liberties has got horribly entangled in a twisted version of secularism and political hypocrisy?

Nasreen may well be an attention-seeker who is compulsively provocative and over-simplistic in her formulations on Islam and women. Her literary worthiness could be a matter of legitimate dispute and her eagerness to reveal her personal sexual history a complete turn-off. Many of her critics condemn the Bangladeshi writer for her propensity to ‘seek trouble’ in a country that has been generous enough to offer her asylum.

But when confronted with India’s larger claim to being a democratic, free society, none of that is really the point. All great art is historically rooted in irreverence and disbelief. And all open societies must permit absolute freedom to individuals — artistes or not — to question and reject inherited wisdom. Nasreen has been reduced to living the life of a fugitive on the run all because some fringe Muslim group decided to mix up the carnage in Nandigram with literary censorship and because the CPI(M) government was too nervous to question the bizarre juxtaposition of the protestors.

The Taslima Nasreen controversy is not as important for what it says about her as it is for what it says about us — as a country and as a people.

We may want to brand Nasreen as an ‘outsider’ who is not worth the turmoil she causes. But we aren’t qualitatively different when it comes to our own people either. Much the same arguments and adjectives (publicity-hungry, insensitive, arrogant, childishly provocative, etc.) were used to justify the forced exile of India’s most celebrated painter, M.F. Husain. India’s elite may trip over itself to own one of his frames, an aspiring middle-class may invest in him like they once did in gold and starlets may twitter incoherently at the possibility of being immortalised on the great man’s easel. But it hasn’t moved any of us into campaigning for a 92-year-old man pushed out of his own country.

Joking with me recently, Husain said he was living the life of a global jetsetter — dividing his time between London and Dubai. Then, suddenly, the quivering voice dropped to a faint whisper, as he said, “I don’t think I can come back home till the BJP is willing to change its mind.”

And so, these are the befuddling contradictions of India’s political establishment.

The BJP is upset at the writer being tossed around from state to state like a “football” and wants India to grant Nasreen a permanent visa and political asylum. In other words, it’s quite happy for Islam to be brought under the microscope of literary scepticism. But if Husain wants to interpret Hindu goddesses in his characteristically iconoclastic style, that’s not just unacceptable. It’s reason enough to send him to jail.

The Congress, with quintessential timidity, wants to offend no one. So, it’s worked out a piecemeal arrangement wherein every few months, it nervously tiptoes around the issue and extends Nasreen’s visa, hoping that no one will really notice. Its state unit in West Bengal has called Nasreen’s autobiography a “piece of pornography” and supported the West Bengal government’s decision to ban it.

If the BJP is comfortable in politically exploiting radical Islam to its advantage, the Congress is careful to not offend its practitioners for exactly the same motivated reasons. If you remember, the Prime Minister made it a point to take an official position against the Danish cartoonist who allegedly disrespected the Prophet. And it’s a matter of some irony that it’s under this government’s Home Ministry that Husain was slapped with court notices.

And finally, the ‘progressive’ Marxists not just banned Nasreen’s book (this in a state where the Chief Minister sees himself as a poet and literary philosopher), their party leader declared without any embarrassment that if Nasreen was going to be “so much trouble” she should just pack her bags and leave. The Left has treated the protests by the Muslim Right as worthy of response, but shown only reflexive contempt for the same sort of complaints from the Hindu Right.

So, what about the rest of us?

Have we been less hypocritical than our political leaders? Or have our positions, too, been coloured by prejudice?

Do we show the same anger for the ‘liberal’ politicians who push a writer out of her home as we do for the goons who vandalised the fine arts faculty in a university in Gujarat? Does a twisted notion of secularism make us respond to censorship differently when it applies to the Hindu majority? We are quick to condemn the lunatics who wield trishuls and wear saffron. But isn’t it time that the skull-capped and long-bearded version of fanaticism and hooliganism receives our contempt in exactly the same measure?

Creative freedom cannot be applied selectively. Otherwise, our self-image of being an open and proud democracy will need another look in the mirror.

Barkha Dutt is Managing Editor, NDTV 24X7
barkha@ndtv.com

Advertisements




Nandigram and pseudo secularism: terrorism prospering

22 11 2007

FACT has been following closely the hypocrasy of Left lobbyists (yes they are) over the Gujarat violence and other issues related to the communal (so called) violences and flare ups. They have always called themselves the harbingers if not demi gods that would protect the Muslims and other minorities (God knows what that means.).

All said and done we the layman in us are compelled to think that Muslims when it comes to protesting are the best and violently best. Thats shows through out the world. Why and how in the world in a democratically empowered nation (I am not talking of our neighbours its just Hindustan as they call us) are people compelled to violence in a peaceful rally. Come on give us a break when u say the external elements have done all the wrong things and we werwe spectators. Mr Home minister you are a real one aren’t you ?

Look at what the blogging community feels about this.

This is one blog from Seriously sandeep

The Indian media sometimes acknowledges truth when it has no alternative. This Indian Express report of Muslims who were butchered in the Nandigram saga belongs to that category.
…dominance of Muslims in Opp, relief camps prompts
attack from Muslim voices
But thanks to excellent blogs
like this, we get closer to the truth. One reason that strikes me is bloggers like Offstumped blog because they are passionate about what they write unlike mainstream media, which is a curious creature of ideology, politics, fear, opportunism, and all of the above.

And look at what the media and pseudo secular press the blogger is mentioning to feels about the whole thing.

THE INDIAN EXPRESS reports

No issue, says CPM, but dominance of Muslims in Opp, relief camps prompts attack from Muslim voices
KOLKATA, NOVEMBER 19: •The first fallout of what has happened at Nandigram is that it weakens our case in Gujarat. The CPM, which always speaks of high ideals, is indulging in such shameful acts of violence. This is not an issue that concerns Muslims only. It’s a national issue: Kamal Faruqui, permanent member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board

THE OFFSTUMPED reports

The picture is now complete from gangrapes to letters of extortion, the CPI-Mafioso has it all figured. The only debate is whether the “hafta” so collected from the mostly Muslim farmers of Nandigram is being directly routed to the Central Politburo to fill Karat’s coffers or if Buddhadeb is being paid back those very same coins.

The City express reports
Jamiat attacks Muslim body, Buddha
Express News Service
Kolkata, March 2: The Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (JH) has condemned the Jamiat Ulama Bangla’s (JB) ‘inclination’ towards the Left-Front and has alleged that the JB is acting as a mouthpiece for the Left-Front government.

Look at this piece from INDIAN MUSLIMS

From Prakash Karat to Buddhadeb all are giving reasons as to why the killings happened, what led to that killing, what were the events before that. But they are evading the point. The fact is that there have been innumerable people killed, some like Udit Raj putting it as high as 600! There are recorded cases that the bodies were swiftly removed before they could be counted. Along with that there have been numerous rape cases where a report in Indian Express about ‘Sabina Begum’ looks like a leaf out of Gujarat 2002.

IBNLIVE.COM reports

Nandigram and Muslim voter: CPM in a hot soup

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his party apparatchiks were alarmed. And the violent scenes of Kolkata on Wednesday with arsonists torching buses, pelting stones at passing vehicles and hooligans aiming brickbats at policemen were seriously alarming. The Muslim in West Bengal seemed to be announcing his grave disappointment with the Left. Idris Ali of the All India Minority Forum has long been associated with the Congress, running the party’s state minority cell. He has one of those perennial hangers-on in the Congress headquarters of Kolkata which had long lost its sheen and glamour after Mamata Banerjee walked out to become the principal Opposition force in West Bengal. It must have warmed Ali’s cockles to witness such a huge turnout for an otherwise muted protest call against issuance of visa to Taslima Nasreen. The controversial Bangladeshi author has made Kolkata her second home many years ago.

And look at what the Secular icons of peace from the Left have to say on Tasleema nasreen and ofcourse very often we can always say we were quoted out of context.

Under fire over Taslima talk, Bose eats his words

New Delhi: CPI-M’s state General Secretary and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose had to eat his words on Thursday after he came under fire from intellectuals for his statement that Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen should leave Kolkata if her stay disturbs peace.
Retracting his statement, Bose on Thursday said only the Union Government can cancel or extend her visa. “I should have mentioned this in clear language,” he said.
“I don’t want to speak elaborately on the role played by the Centre on Taslima Nasreen’s stay in West Bengal. But if her stay creates a problem for peace, she should leave the state,” Bose had said in a written statement issued on Wednesday evening.

This is the IBNLIVE.COM’s REPORT on Nandigram and the Mulim voter well well cant we say voters just voters why have we all the way being tagged come on media people you cant just go on dividing us like this.

Bengal’s minority report puts CPM in the red

New Delhi: CPI-M’s state General Secretary and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose had to eat his words on Thursday after he came under fire from intellectuals for his statement that Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen should leave Kolkata if her stay disturbs peace.
Retracting his statement, Bose on Thursday said only the Union Government can cancel or extend her visa. “I should have mentioned this in clear language,” he said.
“I don’t want to speak elaborately on the role played by the Centre on Taslima Nasreen’s stay in West Bengal. But if her stay creates a problem for peace, she should leave the state,” Bose had said in a written statement issued on Wednesday evening.