Not just any discussion but one that is the burning topic of the day(when has it been not?)
One on Freedom of expression.
I thought of writing on this topic but as I went through old links I realized that almost all the points have been covered by those who were part of the debate, including yours truly.
It is also (and I say this in all humbleness) true that I have come to realize that this topic has no right or wrong. Its not a black and white one but one with more grey in between perhaps than any other I have come across.
Vir Sanghvi (wonder of wonders!) has asked the questions that are in my mind too.
The sheer inconsistency displayed by the government of India as well as those who call themselves ‘secular liberals ‘is mind boggling in the extreme.
Different standards for different souls? Why?
Arun Shourie’s “Worshipping False Gods” a book against which the calls for ban have gotten louder. Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” has been banned. Yes, banned. By a government that claims to uphold all that is secular in India.
Dwikhandito and Lajja banned in one place censored partially in another. Why?
Danish cartoons are offensive but Mr Hussain is being creative when he decides to paint certain things.
And Taslima Nasreen hurts ‘religious’ sentiments when she tries to portray religious atrocities that were committed on minorities in Bangladesh .
The poor woman now simply says she never wrote this, she never wrote that. After all, who doesn’t value their life?
Specially, when the government of the country she is in, had ‘secretly’ told her to leave India at the end of the 6 month period.
Also, an argument I am coming across these days (very slyly mind you) is that Ms Nasreen is a shoddy writer at best who might have never become this famous had it not been for the whole controversy.
Well…can we also extend this argument and apply it to a certain Maqbool Fida Hussain?
The Left, that bastion of all things secular? No, my friends not a titter out of them. But ask them about M.F Hussain and they have tomes to write and start suffering from verbal diarrhea.
Despite the writer’s wish to return to Kolkata, the Left Front government in West Bengal did not pay any heed to her request.
The government of India meanwhile sits as a mute spectator on the Taslima issue. Not a peep put of them. Not one. No,Sir.
Infact, Pranab Mukerjee went a step further and gave some friendly advice to Ms Nasreen sometime back.(remember?)
Ofcourse you can live here. Just some self restraint please.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, that poetic and ‘liberal’ soul, Biman Bose and Hashim Abdul Hamil and many other respected Left leaders sought to divert attention away from Nandigram and chose to focus on Ms Nasreen. Not to give her protection but to remain as yet another mute spectator. Get away ! get away from amar bangal they whispered frantically.
Irony of ironies she was whisked away to a saffron ruled state. Rajasthan. And in a burqa.
The FoE topic has been done to death everywhere.And it is a never ending one. The same questions remain except that this time I can ALSO ask Mr Hussain if he has enough freedom in the country that has bestowed the ‘honour’ on him.
More creative freedom for him there in Qatar than India perhaps? Eh Monsieur Hussain?
That country which while living amidst more orthodox neighbors can celebrate its relative freedom and yet also follows Islamic laws and has still not accepted the compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
(Yes, I am asking the question too Mr Sanghvi. The one word you inserted to make it all look ‘balanced’. ‘Hindutva wallahs’)
Yes, Mr Hussain says he does enjoy freedom there. In Qatar.
Note:- The flip flops in Mr Hussain’s statements and the contradictions in them have been given here as they are. At the time of editing this post, a new interview was out.Had to include it.
“I enjoy complete freedom in Qatar. Now Qatar is my place. Here no one controls my freedom of expression. I am very happy here,” he said.
Good for you Mr Hussain. I am really glad for you as are many others are I believe. You are at peace. We are at peace. Issue resolved.
Mr Hussain, our courts might be a tad slow (okay..very slow) but justice is given here. If you have enough stamina (as I gather from your plans to devote time to a museum all for yourself and paint for the royal family..btw sound business mind that you have there..I am impressed and all) then surely you also could have fought your battle legally?
I love India but the country rejected me, says M F Husain
No, Mr Hussain. India did not ‘reject’ you as you put it. You rejected India and its judicial system. You accepted the citizenship of another country instead of coming here and facing the idiots who are wreaking havoc. For, is it not you who said that 99% of Indians love me. So am I to infer that the remaining 1% were successful in driving you out?
And who told you to get out of India in the first place?
Was it not a self imposed exile? And if you have been hounded out as many put it what then does that say about the government of India?
Don’t your various family members live in this very India that you have shunned? Are they facing problems? Has a mob burnt down their house? Threatened them?
How can I trust a political leadership that refused to protect me?” he said.
NOW you are asking the right question Hussain Saab.
If they can’t protect YOU, the man who is a ‘legend’ as many say, imagine how they can protect ‘poor us’, the miserable common people who would have had to face mobs hell bent on avenging the ‘insult’ caused by your ‘art’? Huh?
Thank you for sparing our lives as well. For while we understand your art is glorious and all that we have to think of our roti, daal and life (not necessarily in that order though)
The task would be a lot easier if the government protected you as well as us.
But well, that’s Indian democracy for you. Straight out of the wild west.
I know 99% of India loves me…If I’ve offended anyone, I express regret,” he says.
But you have been ‘expressing ‘ this regret since the past two decades Mr Hussain. Infact in that case, Ms Nasreen has gone a step further and denied that she ever wrote what is being attributed to her in the Karnataka daily. Why then this tamasha over her? Why is her apology not being accepted and yours is being seen as ‘from the heart’?
You left the country you love because of a piddly 1%? Tch tch.
But the best part of Mr Hussain’s interview(the new interview) with a certain Ms Dutt is this.
I wanted to do these projects in India but there are so many obstacles you know, it is not easy to work. First there is also the question of finding a sponsor. So, I was waiting, this I decided in 2004 when I came to Dubai to find some sponsor. So, in London I found a sponsor for history of Indian civilization and in Qatar, Sheikha Mozah invited me to do a history of other civilizations and Abu Dhabi will sponsor the project on Indian Cinema, I think in a big way next year. So, to do all these works I have to become an NRI because of the tax structure there (you can ask any corporate and you will know). It’s not only here, it’s all over the world. What’s happening to Polanski, Bergmann in Sweden, he had to leave because he was hounded by tax people. LINK to full transcript of his interview with B. Dutt
Future artists please take note. THIS is how business is done. Unapologetically and with no pretensions. Pehle business, baad mein creativity.
(Why a comparison with Polanski though? :O )
Barkha Dutt: Was this a painful decision for you to surrender your Indian passport?.
MF Husain: This is all, I think the media is suffering from all the pain and agony, I am not.
Hussain Saab if I were rich (which I am not) I promise I would have bought at least one of your paintings. Just for this.
Barkha Dutt: How far do you think freedom of expression can go? Do you think politics of intolerance is shadowing our discourse in India?
MF Husain: Luckily in India there is no serious curb on creative painting. I don’t think it was ever there. Just once there was that attack in Baroda, but what has happened with me is a small thing. We remain a free country.
There you have it. He is A-okay with his decision. Has no emotional problems. It’s a business decision. AND he thinks India is still a free country which does not impose restrictions on creative people. Yipiee.
What? Ah that? Pshhaaw! Please disregard his interview from yesterday. The guy has a right to change his mind.
Who is wrong and who is right? In this debate for Freedom of expression?
I, anguished like so many others at the loss of lives . All in the name of religion and creative expression.
Others anguished at the way ‘their’ gods and goddesses have been treated.
Yet others, who feel that if we bow down in one instance there’s no looking back. We will become a mobocracy.
And all of us (save the goons but then goons themselves are ruling us are they not?) anguished at how very unsafe we feel in our own country.
But in all the chaos, one culprit gets away.The Government that is supposed to maintain law and order. The one that is supposed to protect us. The one that couldn’t ensure that Hussain felt safe in this country. The one that hems and haws when it comes to Taslima Nasreen. Because visions of minority votebank dance in front of its eyes.
So they let evil rule. There is mayhem on the streets. But its all good you see. Because they are secular .They don’t create mayhem. They just let it flourish.
More on this pseudo secular government here.
I remember writing this.
But now,let me ask you when you cite the Constitution regarding ‘Freedom of speech ‘, why should I not cite this again?
Reasonable restrictions can be imposed in the interest of public order, security of State, decency or morality. The government restricts these freedoms in the interest of the independence, sovereignty and integrity of India. In the interest of morality and public order, the government can also impose restrictions.
And you know what? This is exactly what did happen. Just a few days back. It took the government but a day to clamp a ban on a textbook.
The objectionable pictures were printed in the cursive writing exercise books at a private school in Shillong and were noticed by some parents who brought it to the attention of the vastly influential church in Meghalaya “We are shocked and hurt by this act. Jesus Christ has been portrayed in a highly objectionable manner… we condemn the total lack of respect for religions by the publisher,” Mr Dominc Jala, the Archbishop of Shillong, said. “Just imagine students at such an impressionable age being exposed to these blasphemous images,” said Mr T Jrwa, another church leader.
This is creative expression so many could say. Isn’t it? I mean after all we are catching em young and drilling the idea into their heads that freedom of expression is this. (It was a textbook for Class I )
And maybe that would have been fine.
But what would you do with furious parents and teachers? Pray. Do tell.
I am against bans. Of any kind. But if a ban helps in protecting lives because the government is an impotent one, then so be it.
These useless governments find it far easier to ban something than to ensure that an artist has the right to create what he/she wants.
So now what am I to do as an ordinary citizen?
Campaign on the artist’s behalf?
Or heave a sigh of relief that I and my loved ones have lived to see another day and go about earning my daily bread?
My views are best expressed in the words of Ian Buruma.
Nevertheless, free speech is not absolute……If this smacks of political correctness, then so be it. But civilised life, especially in countries with great ethnic and religious diversity, would soon break down if everyone felt free to say anything they liked to anyone. The problem is where to draw the line. Legally, this should probably be the point where words are designed to result in violence. Socially, there are too many variables to establish an absolute, universal principle. The proper limits must be constantly tested, contested, and renegotiated.- Ian Buruma LINK
Can you think of a country more diverse in every way possible than India herself?
Freedom of expression ceases to exist without the freedom to offend.
And we as demonstrated are just not ready for it.
What might be ‘art’ to you might be nothing less than sacrilege for another. So who decides?
You or the ‘other?
Give me one thing and make me shut up. Government of India, I beg of you. Give me consistency. Consistency in your actions. In your words.
Just one word at the heart of it all. One word that will make many like me shut up and shut up for good.
Thank you for the patience for reading this far.Related links given below.
And now, I give you the links to browse through. Though most friends are already aware of the debate that had taken place.
the very first one is a post by Nimmy.
Pragmatics between moral police and one’s freedom of expression
The debate that ensued in the comment section is where it all started.
Then a post on mine
(I apologize for the erratic font size in this post.I assure you the intention is not to shout.:) *effect of shifting from blogspot to WP*)
Then another post, again by me where I hoped to finally pen down the thoughts and let it be.
And a post by Quirky Indian who made so much sense.
PS:- Read a brilliant article on How outraged communities are constructed and the role the State plays in constructing them. An eye opener.
Constructing Outraged Communities and State Responses:
The Taslima Nasreen Saga in 1994 and 2007
The actions of these outraged communities cannot be explained by looking only at the dynamics of the group and methods of collectivization of emotion but the role of the state in the process warrants attention as well.