Taslima Nasreen Attacked by MLAs in Hyderabad
Fun and games broke out in the city of Hyderabad yesterday when controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen was attacked by "a group of middle aged men" at the launch of the Telugu translation of her new book, Shodh. Said group of middle aged men turned out to be "activists" (including three Members of the State Legislative Assembly) from the Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM), a political party working out of Hyderabad.
I’d never heard of the MIM before, but I can see they’re obviously a genius bunch. After all, it takes mucho grey cells to realize that nothing attracts more sympathy to your cause than throwing odd bits of furniture and anything else you can get your hands on at a lone woman in front of TV cameras. Standing in the middle of the local Press Club of all places:
[A]bout 20 MIM activists, led by MLAs Syed Ahmed Pasha Qadri, Afsar Khan and Moazzam Khan, barged into the conference hall... Demanding to know “who had mustered the guts to invite her to Hyderabad, they wanted Ms. Nasrin to be handed over to them. Without further warning, they began throwing books, bouquets, chairs, and whatever they could lay their hands on at her.
Nasreen was shielded from harm by journalists on the scene and police arrested seven persons who were later released on bail. When asked about it, MIM MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi took to the airwaves to explain why his partymembers' actions were not violent in anyway:
"It wasn't physical violence. She got what she deserves. Probably she deserves more. Why are we talking about a writer who is not an Indian?" he asked.
"Nasreen is no different than a (Praveen) Togadia, who is a Hindu fundamental leader. She has hurt the sentiments of 20 crore Muslims. We are bothered so much about one person who is not even an Indian but we don't seem to care about the lot of Muslims in this country who are disgusted with her."
Ladies and gentlemen, Akrabuddin Owaisi is obviously a great man! Why didn't someone tell me about this new philosopher in our midst, with his truly astonishing grasp of logic and analogy?
Of course Nasreen is exactly like Togadia! A Muslim woman writer who writes about equality and the interpretation of the Koran - why, the connection is fairly blinding, it is! Also, Bangladeshis? Bah! Everybody knows killing a Bangladeshi isn't like killing an actual person - it's more like killing... a Bangladeshi, you know? Completely different thing! And throwing things at and threatening to behead people isn't violence! Some people positively need to be beheaded and who cares about itty bitty things like the law? Filthy, man made things, that's what laws are! Who wants any of that nastiness?
Well... erm, the MIM? Considering they're a political party and have several members in the Legislative Assembly? You know, the body that... uh, legislates?
But listen, these are the soldiers of God! They know what they're doing, alright? Look at their accomplishments in a 48 hour period:
- Given loads of publicity to Nasreen’s new book
- Painted her as a victim and hence a figure for sympathy
- Played up to the worst ever stereotype of Muslims with MLA Akhtar Khan (one of the men who took part in the incident) saying things like: “She has written books against our government, Islam…I am a Muslim first and then an MLA. My party is with me in this mission.“
Well done, MIM, well done indeed! What a credit you are to your cause, your religion, your political office! I must try this novel method of winning hearts and minds the next time I campaign for something. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t have thought of throwing flower pots at someone but what do I know? I‘m not in public service. I didn’t swear any oaths, etc to uphold the tenets of my office or anything. Especially not in the name of God. The God I'm willing to murder people for. No sir!
All sarcasm aside, Nasreen, of course, is not the first writer to be faced with this kind of persecution; she’s merely the latest in a long line. Nor is this kind of behavior the sole prerogative of Indians or even Muslim Indians: Nasreen, after all, was forced to leave Bangladesh seeking political asylum because her book Lajja was deemed "blasphemous" and, in the not so distant past, the MIM’s Kumbh ke mele mein bichde hue bhai (long lost brothers), the very intelligent Sambhaji Brigade, has done Hindu and Maratha pride wonders, for example.
Now, while I do have an opinion about the kind of laws that drove Nasreen out of her country, I'm far more concerned by this decision of the Supreme Court of India, carried out in May:
“It is true that forfeiture of a newspaper or book or a document is a serious encroachment on the right of a citizen, but if forfeiture is called for in the public interest it must without a doubt have pre-eminence over any individual interest,” a Bench of Justices B P Singh and H S Bedi observed while upholding the Karnataka government’s decision to ban a vernacular novel.
Although I’ve always defended the right to free speech, I understand that there are some limits that are desirable: hate speech, inciting violence, slander… But what the above decision (pertaining to a Kannada book I have not read called Dharmakaarana by PV Narayana) does, as far as I can make out, is pander to extremists. [If anyone has read the book and supports the decision, I’d be glad to hear from them.]
What that SC ruling says, as I see it, is that tomorrow a bunch of crackpots can band together and have my opinions as a law abiding citizen censored irrespective of actual intent or truth by threatening violence. All they have to do is convince the government that they mean business. So my rights as a citizen can be held hostage by any
idiot criminal with an effigy as the words of Delhi Minorities Commission Chairperson Kamal Farooqi, speaking out to condemn the actions of the MIM MLAs, illustrate:
"The government should immediately cancel her visa and make her go out of the country," he said adding, "she should realise that this is not Bangladesh or Pakistan, but India where the sentiments of all communities are respected".
Farooqi and Owaisi got one thing right: Nasreen is not an Indian citizen; she is instead a guest in our country. A country I might add, that gives itself many airs about its traditions and culture, including a much-avowed system of hospitality, which, the last time I checked, does not include the murder of one's guests in one's home no matter how objectionable one might find them.
Nasreen has been nothing but complimentary about India and its democracy but in view of the SC ruling and the time-honored Indian tradition of throwing sops to criminals in the interests of hushing up that which we find uncomfortable (not to mention crass votebank politics), I have to wonder if her faith might not be misplaced.
Who wants to place bets that Shodh is going to go the way of Lajja? Buy your copies now, folks.
Update: The many mysteries and intricacies of Indian law continue to fascinate - an FIR is registered against Taslima Nasreen for "hurting religious sentiments" (of course!) apparently by the mere fact of her existence, while the "lawmakers" who called for her murder walk free.
Taslima Nasreen Attacked by MLAs in Hyderabad
- » Published on August 10, 2007
- » Type: News
- » Filed under:
Author: Amrita Rajan
- Subscribe to RSS 2.0 feeds for:
- » Comments on this article
- » Culture
- » Media: Events
- » Media: News
- » Culture: Arts
- » Culture: Books
- » Culture: Books - Fiction
- » Culture: Celebrities
- » Culture: Crime
- » Culture: Religion
- » Culture: Satire
- » Culture: Social Issues
- » Culture: Society
- » Culture: Women
- » Culture: The Writing Life
- » Desicritics.org articles by Amrita Rajan
- » All News articles
- » All Desicritics.org articles