Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Indian State is a Coward - Int Herald Tribune-NY Times

The Indian State is a Coward
Last year, Salman Rushdie was to attend the festival but had to cancel after some Muslim groups objected and the Indian government and the government of Rajasthan (the state of which Jaipur is the capital) said they could not guarantee his physical safety. A few days later he appeared at a conclave in New Delhi and there were no protests at all. He even taunted the Indian government for the uneventfulness of his appearance in India. He has since visited India at least once. The protest against his planned attendance at the Jaipur festival and the government’s reaction were a part of the same imbecilic farce that often collides with artistic and intellectual freedom in India. There is nothing valiant about the loss of the freedom of expression in India, as it often happens for no good reason at all. Just a small bunch of thugs or fools can influence the state to take their side.

The release of a Tamil-language film, which also has or will soon have versions in other Indian languages, has been blocked in several parts of southern India by some Muslim groups whose leaders have not even seen it. The film’s director, co-producer and lead actor, Kamal Haasan, had faced a similar problem a few years ago from many quarters, particularly Hindu groups, before the release of a film about a man who sets out to assassinate Gandhi. A Hindu nationalistic group said it was offended by its portrayal of historical figures. And, once again, the politicians took the side of the fanatics. Mr. Haasan went around for days in a green shirt and green trousers to irritate Hindu groups with the color of Islam. During the controversy he told me in an interview that he was very surprised that nobody had yet objected to the fact that the film depicted Gandhi as being shot and killed.

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