Let this 14 February be Free Speech Day – the text below comes to us via NILANJANA S. ROY; for more, see Akhond of Swat or follow #flashreads on Twitter. Flashreads are being organised across India – see Facebook event page.
- Poster by Sanjay Sipahimalani
THE IDEA: To celebrate free speech and to protest book bans, censorship in the arts and curbs on free expression
WHY FEBRUARY 14? For two reasons. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the death of Salman Rushdie for writing the Satanic Verses. In GB Shaw’’s words: “Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.” Continue reading Flashreads for Free Speech: Readings for 14 February
Guest post by FAIZ ULLAH
Highstreet Phoenix, an upscale shopping mall, rose from the ashes of Lower Parel’s semi-functional Phoenix Mills in the late nineties’ Bombay. It has since successfully emerged as one of the most popular shopping and leisure destinations for the city’s affluent set. Highstreet Phoenix is just one of the many mills in the South-Central Bombay’s Girangaon that have been leased, sold or redeveloped in contravention of industrial and land-use policies and court judgements especially in the last two decades. These large swathes of urban land, two thirds of which was meant for low-cost housing, civic amenities and open spaces, are being fast converted into exclusive housing societies, office complexes and recreation zones that only a few can access and afford. Such tensions, some like McKinsey & Company (of Vision Mumbai report fame) would say, are inevitable, even necessary, for the cities that aspire to be world class.
Continue reading Beyond the Four Corners of the Law and the Diggy Palace: Faiz Ullah
Dear Students, Dear Teachers, Dear Friends at Symbiosis University, Pune
You are faced with an extraordinary situation. A symposium on Kashmir that was to be held in your institution with the support of the University Grants Commission, has been
cancelled, postponed (see update at the end of the post) following complaints by activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (the student wing of the extreme right-wing militia that goes by the name of the RSS) against the proposed screening of a documentary film ‘Jashn-e-Azadi‘ (‘This is How We Celebrate Freedom’) by the well known filmmaker Sanjay Kak. These complaints, which could more accurately be called threats, have unfortunately received the tacit endorsement of senior police figures in Pune and seem to have met with the approval of your principal. (Thanks to The Hindu – see links above – for the two balanced reports on this issue.) While the seminar may or may not be held (it stands ‘postponed’ as of now) the administration of Symbiosis have succumbed to the insistence of the right wing groups that Jashn-e-Azadi’s screening remain cancelled. Continue reading To the Students and Faculty of Symbiosis University on the Censors in their Midst
The Hindu reports that a university in Pune has cancelled a planned screening of Sanjay Kak’s 2007 documentary film, Jashn-e-Azadi: How We Celebrate Freedom.
Speaking to The Hindu over telephone, Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce principal Hrishikesh Soman stated that the ABVP had approached him on Friday, and that the college agreed to cancel the film screening “considering their [ABVP’s] emotions and feelings.” “I told them that the seminar is entirely academic, apolitical and non-religious. But the film has met with criticism from all corners. So we have decided to avoid unnecessary controversies and cancel the screening,” Mr. Soman said. “If people have a very strong reason to protest the film, then we should be tolerant enough,” he stated. [Link]
Shameful as this censorship is, it is a compliment to Sanjay Kak’s fabulous documentary film that the goons of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad don’t want people in Pune to see it. The truth about Kashmir must not be told. This is also an example of why the BJP props up its ‘minority morcha’ to oppose Salman Rushdie visiting Jaipur: they want the Congress and the ‘secularists’ and the Muslims to be seen as censor-happy so that they can get away with their own censorship.
Freedom of speech and expression in India, RIP.
Just as Satanic Verses freely circulates on the internet, you can also watch Jashn-e-Azadi online, for free.
Continue reading How We Celebrate Freedom
Sec. 153A of the Indian Penal Code – that favored child of the religious right- provides for punishment of upto three years imprisonment for the promotion by words (spoken or written) of disharmony, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will between religious communities. The punishment laid down in this section has to one of the most redundant penal sanctions in the law since in this case the process is the bloody punishment.
There is a similar redundancy in Sec. 295A of the IPC which provides that “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise] insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Continue reading The process is the bloody punishment
This release comes from SAHMAT, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, Delhi
We have watched with dismay the unnecessary controversy which erupted over the presence of Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literary Festival. We strongly disapprove of the threats – real or perceived – issued against the participation of Rushdie. The state has once again succumbed to retrogressive forces using works of creative expression for their own narrow, partisan and divisive political agendas. SAHMAT has stood by Rushdie in the past, when we defied an unofficial ban on The Moor’s Last Sigh by readings on the street in Delhi in 1995. Rushdie has been a frequent visitor to India in the last few years with no problems being raised. Indeed, he visited us at SAHMAT and was serenaded by chance by some of the greatest singers of the Rajasthani Manganiyar tradition.
SAHMAT is issuing an open invitation to Salman Rushdie to come to Delhi to deliver a lecture or participate in a discussion on literature at any time of his choosing. We will host him under any circumstances along with an exhibition of the works of the late MF Husain, driven into forced exile by the similar retreat by the state in it’s cowardly unwillingness to stand up against communal politics.
Did you know that the law had four corners? I didn’t, but whosoever writes press releases for the Jaipur Literature Festival does. Did you know that the ‘ideas can be exchanged and literature loved‘, ‘strictly‘ within these four corners? I didn’t, but whosoever writes press releases for the Jaipur Literature Festival does.
PRESS RELEASE SENT OUT BY THE JAIPUR LITERATURE FESTIVAL, January 20th, 2012
This press release is being issued on behalf of the organizers of the Jaipur Literature Festival. It has come to their attention that certain delegates acted in a manner during their sessions today which were without the prior knowledge or consent of the organizers. Any views expressed or actions taken by these delegates are in no manner endorsed by the Jaipur Literature Festival. Any comments made by the delegates reflect their personal, individual views and are not endorsed by the Festival or attributable to its organizers or anyone acting on their behalf. The Festival organizers are fully committed to ensuring compliance of all prevailing laws and will continue to offer their fullest cooperation to prevent any legal violation of any kind. Any action by any delegate or anyone else involved with the Festival that in any manner falls foul of the law will not be tolerated and all necessary, consequential action will be taken. Our endeavor has always been to provide a platform to foster an exchange of ideas and the love of literature, strictly within the four corners of the law. We remain committed to this objective. [via FirstPost]
Continue reading Jaipur Literature Festival – Requiescat in Pacem
Given below is the text of a press statement issued today by the PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES, Rajasthan. The Hindi original is followed by an English translation.
सलमान रूश्दी के कार्यक्रम रद्द होने पर निराशा
सलमान रूष्दी के जयपुर आने के कार्यक्रम के सम्बन्ध में जब कंछ मुस्लिम संगठनों ने हिंसक विरोध की चेतावनी दी थी तभी पी.यू.सी.एल. ने तुरन्त उसके विरोध में अपना वक्तव्य दिया था और कुछ प्रभावषाली मुस्लिम संगठनो तथा उस समाज के प्रबुद्ध नागरिकों से सम्पर्क कर उनसे विस्तृत चर्चायें की थीं। उन्होने भी हमारे दृष्टिकोण को समझा था और किसी प्रकार के हिंसक विरोध के सम्बन्ध में अपनी असहमति भी प्रकट की थी। परन्तु वह सलमान रूष्दी का जयपुर आगमन पर अपने विरोध के स्वरो को मुखरित करने के अधिकार को सुरक्षित रखना चाहते थे। इसमें कोई आपत्ति भी नहीं हो सकती थी परन्तु ऐसे विरोध की सीमायें कहॉं तक हांेगी इस पर चर्चा जारी थी। इसी बीच सरकार की ओर से यह वक्तव्य दिया गया कि सलमान रूष्दी के आने से कानून और व्यवस्था की स्थिति बिगड़ सकती है। इसलिए उनके आने पर पाबंदी लगाने पर विचार किया जा रहा है। पी.यू.सी.एल. ने सरकार के इस रवैये का जमकर विरोध किया था और इस पर एक प्रदर्षन भी आयोजित किया था। मुस्लिम संगठनों से इसके बाद विस्तृत चर्चा हुई और उन्होने भी यह स्वीकार किया कि कानून और व्यवस्था की स्थिति नहीं बिगड़ने देगें। लेकिन लगता है कि सरकारों को यह प्रयास रूचिकर नहीं लगे और आज सलमान रूष्दी ने ई-मेल सन्देष भेेजकर अपना कार्यक्रम रद्द करते हुए यह कहा है कि उन्हें राज्य सरकार से सन्देष प्राप्त हुआ है कि कुछ उग्रवादी तत्व किसी अन्य प्रदेष से आकर उनकी जान लेने की कोषिष कर सकते हैं। हंालाकि उन्होने स्वयं इस प्रकार की खबर को सन्देहात्मक बताया है परन्तु अपना कार्यक्रम रद्द करने का यही कारण बताया है। Continue reading ‘सलमान रूश्दी के कार्यक्रम रद्द होने पर निराशा’; PUCL regrets cancellation of Salman Rushdie’s visit to Jaipur
Oh, It’s silly season again. (Has it ever not been silly season? Silly me for making a silly rhetorical opening to this post). Anyway folks, aam aur khas janta, baba log and bibi log, it’s time, once monotonously again, for quarantines and piety, for bans and shoe-throwing contests, for frothing at the mouth and froth on the telly. Its Rushdie-Nasreen-Husain Time, again! Ta-Raa! And like a ‘sanjog’ made by a pretend-god in a made up marquee heaven, the stars of ‘Rushdie Time’ are crossed with the suddenly brightly shining stars of what would have otherwise been a lackluster, effigy-tarpaulined, mid-winter provincial election. Ta-Rant-Ta-Raa! Not even a Saleem Sinai or a Gibreel Farishta, let alone a jeeta-jagtaa Salman Rushdie in his weirdest magic-realist moment could have imagined himself mixed up in a plot as diabolical as this one. If this was a court case we could call it Satanic versus Moronic. Whatever it is, there is no denying that it is a P2C2E – a ‘Process Too Complicated To Explain’. But explain we must. Process we can. Pyaar kiya to darna kya?
Continue reading Satanic Versus Moronic: How Salman Rushdie Lost the UP Election
This release comes from the PEOPLE’ S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES, RAJASTHAN
16 January 2012, Jaipur: PUCL strongly condemns Muslim organisations, the Congress and the BJP for opposing Salman Rushdie’s proposed visit to Jaipur
Some Muslim organisations have opposed Salman Rusdie’s participation in the Jaipur Literature Festival. Leaders of the Congress and the Bhartiya Janta Party have also come out strongly in opposition to Rushdie’s visit. Some newspaper reports have carried announcements that Rushdie could be forcibly prevented from coming and attending the literary event.
The opposition is not merely ideological but is also by threatening to disturb law and order. The Rajasthan unit of the PUCL expresses deep concern at such announcements. Such regressive threats are not only an attack on the individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression and a violation of rights granted by the Constitution of India. Such threats also promote communal disharmony, if not deliberately seek to widen communal rifts. Continue reading PUCL condemns those opposing Salman Rushdie’s visit to Jaipur
This release comes from the PEOPLE”S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) views it with deep concern that some organizations have demanded ban on entry of Salman Rushdie in the country. The present call is illogical, preposterous and untenable as the writer has visited the country for several times after the Satanic Verses book controversy. Continue reading Demanding a ban on visit of Salman Rushdie to India is outrageous: PUCL
I think it is sad that the Harud Literature Festival has been “postponed“. Sadder still is that the organisers are blaming those who asked very valid questions. All they needed to do was answer those questions and allay those concerns. Their response, two days after the release of the open letter, did not address those concerns. They even refused to withdraw, leave alone apologise for, the offensive word “apolitical”, or explain how they planned to be “apolitical” while “celebrating” literature in the midst of unmarked graves, militarised bazars and lanes, draconian laws, imprisoned teenagers and the state’s refusal to dispense justice. Continue reading Harud Literature Festival ‘postponed’