Tag Archives: censorship

Oxford University Members Demand that OUP-India Stand by Ramanujan Essay

Shahid Amin has earlier written about the role of the Oxford University Press (India) in the censorship of AK Ramanjuan’s essay on the Ramayana. This press release, signed by a group of Indian scholars at Oxford University, comes to us via Agrima Bhasin.

Press Statement
Oxford, England
Date: 30 November 2011

A petition by members of Oxford University has condemned Oxford University Press (OUP) India’s unflattering role and its deafening silence on the controversy surrounding Delhi University’s recent decision to drop A.K. Ramanujan’s essay (Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation). This petition has gained the abounding support of Oxford intelligentsia across 15 departments and 20 constituent colleges. Signatories include distinguished faculty members, senior academics and students.

In 2008 OUP India unceremoniously decided to stop publication of the only two books (Paula Richman’s Many Ramayanas and Vinay Dharwadker’s The Collected Essays of A.K. Ramanujan) containing Ramanujan’s essay. This happened to coincide with legal proceedings instituted inter alia against OUP India by fringe religious and cultural groups. OUP India’s prolonged subsequent silence on this matter lent widespread credence to the contention that OUP India caved in to external pressure thereby compromising its stated goals of “…[furthering] excellence in research, scholarship… by publishing worldwide.”

Continue reading Oxford University Members Demand that OUP-India Stand by Ramanujan Essay

‘Locking up gods within caste’

This note comes via Malarvizhi Jayanth. Those in support can leave a comment saying so, and add their designations to their names, if they wish.

We call for all those who support democracy and free speech to express solidarity with Thirumavalavan, Meena Kandasamy and Samya.Kathavarayan and Madurai Veeran are among the gods who are acknowledged to be Dalit and are worshipped by many castes. Clearly, in the oral history of the people, the gods have castes and these castes are not determined by who worships them. The twin brothers Ponnar Shankar inhabit the realm between hero and deity. They have been fictionalised, recreated for the silver screen, and are worshipped across communities. Their origin myth remains contested territory – it is variously read as symbolic of the conflict between agriculturists/warriors and hunters, as part of founding tale of the land-owning agriculturist Kongu Vellala Gounder sub-caste and, in a textbook example of how Hindutva functions, have recently been claimed as reincarnations of the Pandavas. Like other deities of the people, they are firmly located in a historical imagination among a society of human beings, and not in a mythos of gods.

In a footnote in Uproot Hindutva: The Fiery Voice of the Liberation Panthers by Thirmavalavan, MeenaKandasamy describes Ponnar Shankar as dalit. M Loganathan, an advocate from Nanje Goundanpudur and Students Wing Convenor of the Kongu Nadu Munnetra Kazhagam (KMK), has been quoted in news reports as saying that there is evidence proving that Ponnar and Shankar are Kongu Vellala Gounders and claiming that depicting them as Dalits will lead to caste tension. Continue reading ‘Locking up gods within caste’

Joseph Lelyveld’s “Great Soul” or How to Damn with Faint Praise: Mridu Rai

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India by Joseph Lelyveld; Alfred A. Knopf, 425 pp., $28.95

Guest post by MRIDU RAI

Joseph Lelyveld’s book was banned in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s native state of Gujarat a day after its publication in the United States. On 30 March 2011, the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party that rules the state, led by its chief minister Narendra Modi, charged Lelyveld with committing “the most reprehensible act by hurting the sentiments of millions of people and demanded that he tender a public apology”. The provocation for this proscription was the mention in some reviews that Lelyveld had suggested Gandhi was bisexual and racist. At the very least, it is surprising that the first public outcry in India against the review — the book has not yet been released in India — should come from the Hindu Right, the political constituency of Nathuram Godse who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948. This must join the many ironies Lelyveld’s book brings out, not least that of latter-day politicians in India (and South Africa) claiming to be his heirs and yet honouring his teaching, if at all, only in their most diluted and least recognizable versions. As Lelyveld writes in his author’s notes, ‘‘[I]t was hard to see what remained of him beyond his nimbus”. Continue reading Joseph Lelyveld’s “Great Soul” or How to Damn with Faint Praise: Mridu Rai

“I Am Still Alive”: Amitava Kumar

Guest post by AMITAVA KUMAR

Till a few days ago, I hadn’t heard of Aqeel Shatir. A friend sent me a link to a report in the Indian Express on December 20 about a poet who had been asked to pay for an anti-Narendra Modi remark in his anthology, Abhi Zindaa Hoon Main (I Am Still Alive). I got in touch with the reporter, in Ahmedabad, who had filed the story and soon after that spoke on the phone with Shatir.

Aqeel Shatir is his takhallus or literary alias. The name his parents gave him was Aqeel Ahmed. His ustad offered him a choice of two pen-names. One was Aazar, which means a sculptor, someone who carves beautiful forms from marble. The other was Shatir, whose literal meaning is chess-player but denotes someone who possesses cunning. Continue reading “I Am Still Alive”: Amitava Kumar

Bloggers and Defamation

Justice Balakrishnan, in refusing to quash criminal proceedings against a nineteen year old blogger, says that any blogger posting material on the web should be aware of the reach of the internet and hence also be willing to face the consequences of such action. This sounds fair enough, and it would seem that if bloggers are exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression, then they should be subject to the same norms as a newspaper or magazine would, including the possibility of legal action being taken against them.

This sentiment reminds me of Anatole France’s famous statement that the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. The quick equation of an individual blogger with the might of a newspaper or a magazine is a little troubling. Individuals do not have the same kind of power, money or reach to be able to defend themselves in the way that newspapers may be capable of. Continue reading Bloggers and Defamation

Yeh To Bada Toing Hai!

It seems the I & B ministry doesn’t like chocolate. Specifically it doesn’t like women nibbling the posterior of a chocolate covered man. The new ‘Dark Temptations’ Axe deodorant ad has been recently banned by the ministry for being  indecent, vulgar and suggestive and thus violating Rule 7 (8) of the Advertising Code prescribed under the Cable Television Act, which says, ” Indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes or  treatment shall be avoided in all advertisements.”

Personally I can take chocolate or leave it….

“Indecent”, “vulgar”, “repulsive” and “offensive” I understand as ideas, at least notionally. It’s the “suggestive” I don’t get.

Continue reading Yeh To Bada Toing Hai!