Yet Another Failed Test for Free Speech In India

18 Jan
  • India must choose to defend free speech | Index on Censorship
    By demanding that Rushdie should not be allowed to enter India, fundamentalists are seeking to set the terms under which dialogue can occur in India. Muslims have been vocal in protesting against material they find offensive, with the Bangladesh-born novelist Tasleema Nasreen a frequent target.
    But in the past quarter century, other groups have also joined in, increasing the clamor against free thought, and narrowing public discourse…
    The inevitable result is deadened polity. While the People’s Union of Civil Liberties has admirably spoken out in defence of Rushdie, other Indian civil society groups have been reticent, unwilling to take on the intolerant, who respond not with argument, but with violence. A few columnists and Bollywood personalities have also criticised the fundamentalists. But no politician of consequence has done so.
    We watch as India hovers over that precipice; it must decide what kind of society it wishes to be — where, as India’s greatest poet wrote, where the mind is without fear, or where words are swallowed, lest they offend somebody.

  • the question Rushdie asked many years ago, when he wrote Satanic Verses.
    Question: What is the opposite of faith?
    Not disbelief. Too final, certain, closed. Itself a kind of belief.
    This brief meditation lies at the heart of the controversy over the Satanic Verses, which has extended into the present and ridiculous debate over whether Rushdie should be “allowed” to attend Jaipur. The real question is why the Deobandis, who rarely come to literary festivals, should want to stop others from listening to Rushdie’s views.
    In the two decades since the Satanic Verses were banned, it has become increasingly hard to discuss the idea Rushdie puts forward in his work, which is the idea that doubt is necessary and valuable. But in that time, India has also moved closer to accepting, blindly and without much fuss, a worryingly widespread belief. This is the belief that at worst, questioning any faith or religion is in itself a kind of blasphemy—and at best, it’s an esoteric activity that the majority can safely ignore.

    tags: writer blasphemy religion faith rushdie salman_rushdie nilanjana_roy friends free_speech freedom wp

  • Our Scissorland – Indian Express Mobile
    This backdrop explains the fear over the government’s attempts to censor various new mediums like social networking sites. These mediums pose new challenges for the ethics of expression. Many states are trying to use these mediums as tools of discipline rather than platforms of expression. But remove the fig leaf of technicalities. Holding them pre-emptively responsible for offensive speech is like requiring a profit-making road operator liable for every crime committed on the road because they did not pre-screen every car and driver and let potential murderers drive. But the issue is not technology. Given the Indian state’s record, it is but natural that any whiff of regulatory control is seen as threatening. A measure of this is the fact that a platitude like “no freedom is absolute” sounds more like a threat when the state utters it…
    Enlightenment was not spread only by sober, non-offensive philosophers. It was created by the most scurrilous lampooning of religious authority, often debasing it. A liberal democratic society can allow us to do that peacefully. But what creates conflict is not offensive speech; it is those using it as a pretext to exercise power over others.

tags: free_speech freedom india religion pratap_bhanu_mehta pbmehta wp

  • An excuse called Rushdie – Views –
    With politicians offering questionable placebos which have expired use-by dates, and clerics misdiagnosing the disease, is it any wonder that the patient’s condition remains grave?
    In Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Iff tells Haroun how certain things are P2C2E, (process-too-complicated-to-explain). But this process is simple: politicians and clerics gain by keeping the population uninformed. They fight chimeric battles and offer illusory benefits to Muslims, who want education and jobs. Instead they get quotas, and not skills, with the added bonus: to protest Rushdie.

tags: free_speech freedom india protest communalism religion friends salil_tripathi wp

  • Disturbing the universe – Books –
    Faith provides simplicity and certainty; reason questions those certainties. Rushdie wants to imagine that which has not yet been imagined, even if it is that which should not be imagined. Shoulds and oughts limit an artist’s freedom to take wing. And Rushdie wants to fly.
    With The Satanic Verses, he soars, and offers a glimpse of a universe that’s bewildering and ennobling; and as we go on that journey, we learn more about ourselves.

tags: booksfaithdoubtimaginationfictionsalil_tripathiwritersfreedomsalman_rushdiewp

  • Views | The right to disturb the peace – Views –“In all the arguments made against Salman Rushdie’s attendance at the Jaipur Literature Festival this week, the gist of them is just this: he disturbs the peace.” But all great literature (or work of art) disturbs the peace in its own way—by questioning tradition, urging us to see in new and different ways, even by being a call to arms. At its core is the concept of “doubt”, without which there can be no progress, no equity, and above all, nothing at all that is new. A world without doubt is a world of endless recapitulation. There can be no freedom of anything, at any level, if doubt is stamped upon. The Deoband clerics have every right to protest peacefully, and Rushdie has every right to seed doubt. It will be truly sad for Indian democracy if Rushdie is barred from coming to India.

tags: views right censorship free_speech freedom wp india

  • Can’t take Bombay out of the boy – Books –
    Intolerance has grown exponentially in India. Words like “blasphemy” are tossed around as though they were part of Indian culture, tradition and discourse: Most recently, cabinet minister Kapil Sibal called Web pages about his party leader Sonia Gandhi that he found insulting, blasphemous, unconsciously giving her the halo of divinity. India’s greatest painter, Maqbool Fida Husain, had to die in exile, because the state refused to protect his right of free expression when vigilantes threatened him and cases continued to be filed against him even after courts had ruled in his favour, dismissing similar cases. Earlier this month in Delhi, another artist, Balbir Krishan, who happens to be gay, and whose art deals with homosexuality, was attacked. The impulse to take offence runs everywhere…
    Delivering the keynote address at the India Today Conclave in 2010, Rushdie noted with alarm the “culture of complaint” that had come to dominate the Indian discourse. He chided India for not defending Husain: “He is even being jeered at for being old. This is the proud face of a philistine India. There is nothing wrong in not liking his art. You can easily opt out. A painting is a finite space of art. If it offends, don’t enter that space. The best way to avoid getting offended is to shut a book… The worst thing is that artists are soft targets… We do not have armies protecting us.”
    Writers should not need armies to protect them in a free society. That Rushdie might need protection in India reflects poorly—not on him, but on India.

tags: book books culture reading writing offense free_speech freedom salman_rushdie salil_tripathi wp

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Links


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