Whose Freedom of Expression?

On the afternoon of May 9th, Niraj Jain, an advocate and BJP activist, led a gang of Hindu supremacist thugs from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP] in invading the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) fine arts faculty, manhandling Chandramohan Srilamantula, and tearing down paintings and art installations exhibited in the annual appraisal show for final-year students. The Hindu supremacists also hurled abuses at faculty and students. The authorities at the university suspended the acting Dean of the fine arts faculty, Shivaji Panikkar.

I am sure, not very long ago, we all have read or heard of this story, while sipping a hot cappuccino or a tea in our comfortable homes. Sounds very fanatic on the part of the right wing activists and very unjustified on that of the MSU’s authorities, in punishing the then acting dean. Most of us must have condemned, what happened there in [Modi’s] Gujarat after reading the headlines. Those who bothered to look inside the story got to know, that all this was done just because an arts student [in question] depicted the Hindu Gods in objectionable state and ways which were highly derogatory and offending. On reading all this one accordingly criticizes the government and the way BJP and VHP cadre reacted. The issue as the press puts in front of us looks like- “Freedom of expression of an artist busted by some religious fanatics, the authorities remained a mute witness to all the mishaps and the innocent were punished by the powerful almighty communal government.” Anything which is communal in nature and tends to repudiate one from the freedom of expression in this free country is a heinous offense of the highest degree.

Its really sad to see something like this happening in a secular country like India and very rightly it should not only be criticized but also be stopped and that too at the earliest possible. Consequently many social activist came in full support of the artist and raised a large hue and cry about the atrocities being perpetrated. Media openly criticized the way in which varsity’s authorities reacted and that too under the pressure of the state government. So far so good.

But there are certain gaps left in the whole scenario. These are the gaps because of which situations like these are created now and then. These are the gaps which are responsible for communal tensions. These are the gaps which force one to take extreme steps like the above. Still these are the gaps which no one in the so called ‘intellectual class’ of the journalists even tries to fill. These are the blanks about whom no one is bothered about. These are the gaps which were blank then, which are barren now and will remain destitute till, God knows when.

It is absolutely right that no one authorised the rightist to take extreme steps like these. But then who authorised artists like Chandramohan to draw whatever they feel like in the name of art? Isn’t this their duty, not to offend the religious sentiments of any community by the means of their actions and the so called ‘art-work’? Isn’t this the responsibility of the people incharge there, people like Panniker, to take care that in the name of art, morally grave crimes like these are not committed? Isn’t this the duty of the concerned authorities to stop it when something objectionable is being done under their roof and people are protesting against it? Shouldn’t the conscience of even a single, so called social activists, must come calling when the sentiments of so many people were hurt? Isn’t this the duty of the media to report the whole truth, about stories such as this, instead of presenting a partial view and that too which is highly skewed in nature? If the answers to all these questions is no, then who are these people to question the legitimacy of the actions which are the repercussions of the misdeeds of the ‘artist’, and in which all these people are equal culprits.

Recently a similar case was on the verge of shoving the whole world into a holocaust, when a Danish cartoonist depicted the painting of Prophet Mohammed in a derogatory manner. The Muslims around the world were on a rampage and there were atrocious public announcements of murdering the cartoonist. Demonstrations and aggregations on mass scales were carried out in almost any and every city of this world, which had even a handful of Muslim as its residents. The newspapers and the news channels were flooded with fatwas against the cartoonist. In those turbulent times even India was no different, from what was happening in the whole world. Everyday’s public demonstrations, agitations and announcements of rewards on the cartoonist’s head was a common scenario.Were all those not meddling with one’s freedom of expression? Were those not acts of atrocities? Were they not in contradiction with how a civilized society behave? Were they not being fundamentalist in their nature? I guess not, thats why no one had any reservations at that time. Neither anyone objected to the ways in which the minorities of this country reacted nor a single person raised his/her voice against the Muslim fascists. Neither the congress, nor the left parties, nor any other so called secular party, these socialites and the self proclaimed ‘intellects’ of our country, none had even a single word to say, forget about criticizing, agitating or demanding any action against them, punishing them was not even in question.

Moreover, I fail to understand that why is it only Modi’s Gujarat, or for that matter only the rightist Hindu organizations which falls under everyones axe, whether its the media, the political parties, or any social activist, when it comes to criticizing the fascist acts that are being carried out in the country. Why we forget that it was a so called ‘secular party’ at the center, which not in very distant past, banned a book named ‘Satanic Verses’ by Salman Rushdie, in view that it hurt the beliefs and sentiments of a particular religious community by proclaiming that, anything of this sort will not be allowed in a secular state like ours, where all religions are equal. Why do we not object when NCP government at Maharashtra also bans a book ‘ Shivaji: Hindu king in Islamic India’ by ‘James W. Laine’?

Isn’t it high time when we start filling these gaps? Isn’t this the right time that we start asking questions to these self proclaimed perpetuators of right to freedom? Isn’t the conscience of the socialists, which only rises at very specific instances, at stake? Does the crooked and fractional view point of these people doing any good to the society? We need to think if, all that what these people are doing in name of safeguarding the society from communal forces, taking more from us instead of giving anything to the society?

1 thought on “Whose Freedom of Expression?”

  1. hey i agree with you media constantly said in that matter that protest were wrong and those religious fanatics were killing painters freedom for epression why this media never raised its voice against numerous muslim countries when salman rushdie was issued with a “FATWA” when he wrote book “the satanic verse”, and why media is now silent when some cleric of kashmir muslim group has renewed Rushdies fatwa, when muslim countries especially Indias beloved neighbours are opposing knighthood to rushdie.
    In brief media just does one thing they show some ridculous and manipulated stories… so, it is my advice keep safe distance from Super Indian FAIR and IMPARTIAL media of ours

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