Sunday, October 18, 2009

Freedom of expression

“Why is ‘Freedom of expression’ so important?” If this question is posed, one would get myriads of plausible answers. Freedom of expression has been the driving force behind the success of humankind in all walks of life.

Once greatest minds on earth believed that earth is flat until Aristotle enunciated “Earth is not flat, rather it is globular”. And yes, this fact had created so much of furor in those days, but so what, now every soul on earth abide by the very fact that earth is globular. Many a times, many of us have an opinion that is quite contradictory to the popular belief, but only few of us would come out and proclaim what we reckon. One must understand that by not being emphatic about your legitimate beliefs, a group of people on earth, often called minority, may be affected adversely for the lack of support. Take for example, religious freedom, equality rights, domestic abuse, corruption, classism and even history. The last example “History” intrigues me most. History is the knowledge about facts or events, how can people possibly have different interpretations when it is based on events or facts? This brings me to the topic that has become ‘a bone of contention’ in Indian media recently.

Yes, I am talking about veteran BJP leader Jaswanth Singh’s recent book "Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence". Jaswanth talked about Jinnah’s secular credentials, and how he is not very different from Nehru. I am not going to reason about ‘the new image’ he divulged about Jinnah, but will take you through the series of events that took place after the book was published. This book had cost him an arm and leg. He was expelled from BJP party for arrantly supporting Jinnah. And of course the book has won him a few friends in Pakistan. The book was banned in BJP-ruled state Gujarat for vilifying Sardar Patel, a well-known freedom fighter, who hailed from Gujarat. Countless debates were followed after Jaswanth was expelled to discuss whether or not BJP and Jaswanth were right in their actions.

It seems an inane idea for BJP to throw an eminent leader, who worked for the party over thirty years, for authoring a book. Does politics forbid politicians to share their ways of thinking? Do political party members abide by party’s principles (considering that each party has thousands of principles) all the times? Do Jaswanth’s views of Jinnah change the love people have for Patel or Nehru? Many a times authors pen something that world would little note nor long remember. Some obscure statistics present that out of a million books published by the press, not even 53% of them are read to completion.

To my understanding if a banned book like ‘Satanic verses’ was allowed to publish in India , very small percent of Indian population would have read and surely it would not have had any effect on Indian masses; for Indian masses care little. How many of Indians know how to read English, and what percent of Indian population would be interested in reading books on some author’s views on Islam. Even if fewer people have read, how many would get offended by the content of the book. Even if someone is offended by the book, an answer to a book is a book.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Maqbool Fida Husain, an Indian born world famous painter, often called “Picasso of India”, celebrated his 94th birth day in abroad. He is on self-imposed exile, as his life is under ‘threat’ from a variety of right wing activists in India. I am all ‘in’ for artistic freedom, if that does not hurt the sentiments of ‘conscious sane minds’. Although I am an ardent follower of Hindu religion, painting Hindu deities in nude would not offend me personally, but I don’t represent a billion Hindus. Like Mr. Husain has every right to paint whatever he contemplates, an ordinary Hindu also has every right to get offended. Many people would say why would Hindus get offended when there thousands of nude sculptures of Hindu goddesses placed around the temples’ walls. That is very true. But let me tell you, if your brother punishes your daughter for doing something wrong, you are all happy that your brother is taking care of your daughter; if a neighbor does it, you will go agog and pick up a fight with your neighbor. Call it hypocrisy or whatever; this is how 90% of human beings would react. One can’t find logical explanation for one’s actions all the times. Same holds true in case of Mr. Husain. A Muslim painter paints Hindu goddesses in nude that too in a sexual manner and it is inevitable that many Hindus would get offended. Do not expect that the rank and file would think logically before they act. Situation would go worse if the artist paints only mythological figures from a particular community and his intentions are clearly depicted in his paintings. In case of Husain, when asked in an interview “why he does not paint Virgin Mary, Mother Theresa or even Mohammed Prophet in nude” he refused to answer the question. I would not judge him, but will let you do so…………