Friday, August 10, 2007

Let's learn our lessons well, ok?

Yesterday Taslima Nasreen was attacked in Hyderabad by the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen. She was here to release the Telugu version of her book, Shodh, at the Press Club in Khairatabad, when three MLAs of the MIM turned up and started to attack her with bouquets (no, really) and other not-so-Gandhigiri-ish missiles.

And now, Mr. Akbaruddin Owaisi, the leading light and hope of the MIM, the new generation, as it were, is quite happy with his partymen:

Akbaruddin Owaisi, MIM’s leader in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, said his party was not worried about the case against its MLAs and activists. “She brought disrespect to Islam and we taught her a lesson,” he said.

And this in the Times of India:

"The partymen are ready to make bigger sacrifices if anyone tries to play with Islam and what it stands for. When M F Husain drew some paintings, some felt it was insulting to their religion. But no one who vandalised the exhibition where Husain’s paintings were on show were arrested or punished." he said.

MIM MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi said neither he nor the party had any regrets over the incident. "Everyone seems to be very concerned over the freedom of speech and literary freedom of a person who is not an Indian citizen. But nobody is bothered about the 20 crore Muslims of our country who have been deeply hurt by the provocative writings of this woman," Akbaruddin told TOI.

Ah. So we should not be concerned about the freedom of speech of someone who is not a citizen of India. We should not be concerned about the rights of those who do not belong to our country, our religion, our caste, our gender.

Anybody who presents a perspective that sits uncomfortably with the majority's idea of itself is automatically to be silenced because clearly, so many people together cannot make themselves heard or present their case without the help of stools and missiles and weapons other than words.

(Let's not even ask if each one of the '20 crore Muslims of our country' have read all of - or even any of - Nasreen's work.)

Every time this happens, I'm amazed at the majority's lack of faith in the strength of its own ideas. If all it takes is one book release, one film screening, one painting, to destabilise the cherished ideas of a community or ideology, what is it worth?

And if to defend one's world view means assaulting another person when they do speak, or denying them the spaces in which to make themselves heard, what we have is not a democracy; what is frightening is the number of people who concur silently with these folks and say, 'she deserved it' or 'he deserved it.'

Note also the way in which people selectively becomes activists when their actions chime with one's agenda and 'terrorists' when they don't.

This has been on my mind even before this happened for reasons I cannot talk about until tomorrow.

More about this tomorrow, then. In the meanwhile, this old post.

Update: It was only when I read Amrita's post that it occured to me to say a few words about the MIM's antecedents. The Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen was founded early in the 20th Century, and supported the Nizam's rule, and later a possible merger with Pakistan rather than with India. Their support of the Razakars, and more especially of the charismatic Qasim Rizvi had much to do with what is usually called the Police Action but more accurately was a military operation codenamed Operation Polo, in 1948 in Hyderabad.


km said...

I've often wondered if "mob censorship" is really a modern phenomenon or has it always been around in other forms?

And it's not as if such behavior is limited to any one culture or nation.

blackmamba said...

OT. The Lady in Pink! yay!

Space Bar said...

km: who knows? i'd imagine it's always been around, though. what was that bit from scaramouche again? "MAn never changes. He is always greedy, always acquisitive, always vile."

bm: see? told you it was Pink, no?