Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wendy Doniger’s Book, Porn Fiction as ‘Alternative History’?


PORN FICTION AS ALTERNATIVE HISTORY?

Wendy Doniger’s ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ was released in India last year. Doniger is the ‘Mircea Eliade Distinguished Professor of the History of Religions’ in the Divinity School and in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

OUTLOOK published an interview with Doniger (October 26, 2009) prominently highlighting this gem from her:

Ram Was Happy With Sita...Indulging In Every Way...And Then He Threw Her Out.

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, set the tone for the interview by Sheela Reddy, who declared Doniger to be an ‘acclaimed Sanskrit scholar and author’.The introductory write-up proclaims that Doniger 

… continued to infuriate the Hindutva brigade with her unorthodox views on Hinduism and its sacred texts, earning for herself the epithet: “rude, crude and very lewd in the hallowed portals of Sanskrit academics”.

DON’T NEED NO FACTS

On October 28, Aditi Banerjee, posted on the magazine’s website a critique on Doniger’s book, in which she cited a number of factual errors and instances where Doniger mauled the truth (Oh, But You Do Get It Wrong!). Banerjee is a London based Indian-American scholar and a lawyer by profession. She has gone to great lengths to consult Sanskrit scholars and Hindu religious pontiffs to verify her facts before posting them.

[For reasons best known to its editors / publishers, OUTLOOK did not carry the rebuttal in its print version although it is available online.]

An interesting feature of the rebuttal is falsification of facts not only by Doniger but also by the magazine – whether by the interviewer or the editor is a minor issue – right at the beginning. Doniger’s description as ‘rude, crude and very lewd’ attributed to the Hindutwa brigade was actually from the BBC website. This is how the website described the ‘acclaimed Sanskrit scholar and author’, in a write-up that accompanied Russell Peters’ interview with her, on March 27, 2002:
Professor Wendy Doniger is known for being rude, crude and very lewd in the hallowed portals of Sanskrit Academics. All her special works have revolved around the subject of sex in Sanskrit texts ranging from Siva: The Erotic Ascetic to Tales of Sex and Violence.

Fellow Sanskrit academics and Wendy herself feel it was only a matter of course before she got round to doing her pièce de résistance - the definitive English translation of that most famed sexual text, the Kamasutra.

Never one to shy away from sex, she threw herself into the job of translating the text...She was particularly interested by the parts that justify adultery and the list of ways to get rid of a man. She feels that the book is basically about how to live the good life, it’s about wooing, and power in a relationship.
...When she was translating it (over a period of a few years and numerous Sanskrit classes), she frequently found herself having to take cold showers.” [Emphasis added - Vox Indica]


Banerjees says that Doniger falsely and unfairly brands all of her critics as right-wing Hindutwa fundamentalists and grossly 'mischaracterises and misquotes' the text of Valmiki Ramayana. She titled a lecture on the Mahabharata, she delivered in Chicago, ‘The Complicity of God in the Destruction of the Human Race’ because throughout the story, ‘Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors’. For her the Bhagavad Gita is a ‘dishonest book; it justifies war! This is an acclaimed Sanskrit scholar and author’!

Banerjee also cites a comment made by Prof. Michael Witzel, to a mailing list in which he said that Doniger's translations of Hindu scriptures were ‘unreliable’ and ‘idiosyncratic’. [Prof. Witzel is the Wales Professor of Sanskrit in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University.] He mentioned among other things that he counted 43 instances of wrong translation in one hymn containing 18 stanzas. This is an ‘acclaimed Sanskrit scholar and author’.

Appalled by the liberties Doniger took with Hindu scriptures Dr. Aseem Shukla, (Co-Founder and Director of the Hindu American Foundation) wrote in his Washington Post blog, ‘Whose history is it anyway?’:

Doniger represents what many believe to be a fundamental flaw in the academic study of Hinduism: that Hindu studies is too often the last refuge of idiosyncratic and irreligious academics presenting themselves as "experts" on a faith that they study without the insight, recognition or reverence of, in this case, a practicing Hindu or even non-Hindu striving to study Hinduism from the insider's perspective would offer.[Emphasis added - Vox Indica]

Dr. S. Kalyanraman, founder of the Sarasvati Research and Education Trust posted an online petition requesting Penguin to withhold publication of the second edition of Doniger’s book, as it is “rife with numerous errors in its historical facts and Sanskrit translations”, “intended to mislead students of Indian and Hindu history” and “analyzes revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern, humanistic psychology has deemed limiting”.

In the petition, Dr. Kalyanraman - a Sanskrit scholar in his own right,  historian and an authority on ancient Indian civilizations - cites numerous factual errors and ‘derogatory, defamatory and offensive statements’. He has included in his petition a small sampling of the errors, misrepresentations and derogatory, defamatory and offensive statements, against each of which he has given cogent arguments as to why it should be deleted.

For the benefit of readers, we have provided online links for the two articles mentioned earlier and reproduce the online petition in full with a request to sign it, by clicking on the link. It has been signed by more than 9000 people so far.

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Oh, But You Do Get It Wrong! By Aditi Banerjee (OUTLOOK, October 28, 2009)


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WHOSE HISTORY IS IT ANYWAY? By Dr. Aseem Shukla, Co-Founder, Hindu American Foundation. (Washington Post, March 30, 2010)


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Online petition by Dr. S. Kalyanraman, founder of the Sarasvati Research and Education Trust requesting Penguin to withhold publication of the book:

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TEXT OF THE PETITION

To: Penguin Group USA Penguin Books India

SCANDALOUS cover jacket of the book - copy for ready reference at http://www.scribd.com/doc/26565460/Scan-0002

To:

Ms. Susan Peterson Kennedy
President , Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson St,
New York, NY 10014, USA

Mr. Mike Bryan,
CEO & President, Penguin Books Pvt Ltd.
11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi 110 017 India

Dear Ms. Peterson Kennedy, Mr. Mike Bryan,

The following is a petition from concerned signatories to the Penguin Group asking for an apology for the publication of the factually incorrect and offensive book “The Hindus - An Alternative History” by Wendy Doniger. We expect Penguin Group to withdraw the book immediately.

The Hindus: An Alternative History” is rife with numerous errors in its historical facts and Sanskrit translations. These errors and misrepresentations are bound and perhaps intended to mislead students of Indian and Hindu history.

Throughout the book, Doniger analyzes revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern, humanistic psychology has deemed limiting. These interpretations are presented as hard facts and not as speculations. Doniger makes various faulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive at her particular spin. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practicing Hindus are simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting reader knowing this to be the case. This kind of Western scholarship has been criticized as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. The non Judeo-Christian faith gets used to dish out voyeurism and the tradition gets eroticized.

A. FACTUAL ERRORS

The following are a just a SMALL SAMPLING of examples of the factual errors that run rampant through this disgusting book. By due diligence that is badly overdue from your editors, you can either find for yourself, or we will be glad to direct you to, scholarly references so that you can verify these errors yourself and withdraw this obscenity.

[Page number precedes a reference to inaccurate statements in the book. This is followed by a comment citing verifiable facts.]

Maps in front pages: Maps titled ‘India’s Geographical Features’ and ‘India from 600 CE to 1600 CE’

COMMENT: In the first map, the Waziristan Hills area is marked erroneously as ‘Kirthar Range’. The Kirthar Range is at least 200 miles further south. In the third map, Janakpur, Nagarkot, Mandu and Haldighati are marked several hundred miles from their correct geographical location.

Pg. 67 - It is claimed that the entire Harappan culture had a population of 40,000!

COMMENT: This is estimated as the population of Mohenjo-Daro alone. The population of the entire culture is estimated around 500,000.

Pg 112 - Wheat is mentioned as a food item in the Rigvedic period.

COMMENT: Wheat is not mentioned in the Rigveda at all. It first occurs in the Maitrayani Samhita of the Yajurveda.

Pg 130 - The author claims that there are no Gods in the Vedas who are Shudras.

COMMENT: It is anachronistic to assign castes to Rigvedic deities, but nevertheless, Pushan, Vesmapati and others have been considered Shudra deities in later times.

Pg 194 fn.- Gandhi's commentary on the Gita (a sacred Hindu scripture) was titled 'Asakti Yoga' (translated as ‘the science of deep attachment’).

COMMENT: The title of Gandhi’s work is 'Anasakti Yoga' (trans. ‘Science of non-Attachment’).

Pg 206 - The book wrongly states that the Hindus had only a triad of passions.

COMMENT: Hindu scriptures list six main evils and the concept of shadripus (six internal enemies) is very well known.

Pg 441 - The book claims that Firoz Shah redeemed a number of Hindu slaves…

COMMENT: A misrepresentation of the fact that he employed (not ‘redeemed’) 12,000 of his 180,000 slaves forcibly in royal factories for producing articles of consumption by Muslim elites. No “manumission” was involved.

Pg 445 - Dates of Saint Kabir are given as 1450 – 1498.

COMMENT: His demise is believed to have occurred in 1518, and the traditional date of birth is 1398.

Pg 448 - In 713 Muhammad ibn Qasim invaded Sind.

COMMENT: Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind in 711.

Pg 450- It is claimed that Emperor Ala-ud-Din Khalji did not sack temples in Devagiri.

COMMENT: His contemporary Amir Khusro clearly mentions that the Emperor sacked numerous temples and raised mosques instead.

Pg 459 - King Ala-ud-din Husain of Bengal patronized Saint Chaitanya.

COMMENT: Saint Chaitanya never met the king, and left his kingdom to avoid persecution, as did his disciples. The king had destroyed Hindu temples in Orissa.

Pg 532 - Emperor Akbar moved his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Delhi in 1586.

COMMENT: Emperor Akbar moved his capital to Lahore in 1587, and thereafter to Agra.

Pg 537-8 - The Sikh teacher Guru Govind Singh was assassinated in 1708, while 'attending Emperor Aurangzeb'. Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707.

COMMENT: Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated in 1708 during the reign of Aurangzeb’s successor, Emperor Bahadur Shah I. It is insulting to say that the Guru was ‘attending’ on the Emperor.

Pg 550 - The book claims that Mirabai lived from 1498-1597, and then on p. 568, the author claims that Mirabai lived from 1450-1525!

COMMENT: Both dates are wrong and the commonly accepted dates are 1498-1547.

Pg 552 - The book claims that the Ramcharitmanas was written at Varanasi.

COMMENT: Both modern scholarship as well as tradition accept that the work (or at least most of it) was written in Ayodhya.

Section on Bibliography: “Shekhawat, V. “Origin and Structure of purushartha Theory: An attempt at Critical Appraisal.” Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 7:1 (1900), 63-67.”

COMMENT: The correct issue and year of this Journal issue are actually 8:2 and 1991. The bibliography has dozens of errors. Some references cited by Doniger simply do not exist.

B. DEROGATORY, DEFAMATORY AND OFFENSIVE STATEMENTS

Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.

[Page number precedes the quote from the book. This is followed by a rebuttal comment.]

Pg 40 – “If the motto of Watergate was ‘Follow the money’, the motto of the history of Hinduism could well be ‘Follow the monkey’ or, more often ‘Follow the horse’.”

COMMENT: Very derogatory and offensive. The motto of Hinduism is to follow the truth and unite with God.

Pg 112 - The author alleges that in Rigveda 10.62, it is implied that a woman may find her own brother in her bed!

COMMENT: The hymn has no such suggestion. It is offensive to suggest that the sacred text of Hindus has kinky sex in it.

Pg 128 - The book likens the Vedic devotee worshipping different Vedic deities to a lying and a philandering boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend(s).

COMMENT: This is offensive and ignores that fact that in the Rigveda, the gods are said to be all united, born of one another, and from the same source.

Pg 225 -“Dasharatha’s son is certainly ‘lustful’... Rama knows all too well what people said about Dasharatha; when Lakshmana learns that Rama has been exiled, he says, “The king is perverse, old, and addicted to sex, driven by lust (2.18.3)”

COMMENT: Sri Rama is revered and worshipped as a deity. The highly acclaimed and critical edition of Valmiki’s Ramayana records no such statement attributed to Lakshmana. An imagined phrase, 'kama-sakta' is mistranslated as 'addicted to sex' by the author whereas it normally means ‘filled with desires’. Valmiki uses a phrase 'samani-madhah' (trans. Possessed of passion).

Pg 467 - Harihara and Bukka (the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire that saved Hindu culture in S India) ‘double-crossed’ the Delhi Sultan when they reconverted to Hinduism.

COMMENT: The brothers committed apostasy as they had been imprisoned and forcibly converted to Islam, and immediately reverted to Hinduism when they were 1000 miles from the Sultan, under the influence of a Hindu ascetic.

Pg 468-469 -“…The mosque, whose serene calligraphic and geometric contrasts with the perpetual motion of the figures depicted on the temple, makes a stand against the chaos of India, creating enforced vacuums that India cannot rush into with all its monkeys and peoples and colors and the smells of the bazaar…”

COMMENT: It is simply unacceptable that a scholar can flippantly, pejoratively and derogatorily essentialize the Hindus as “monkeys and peoples, colors and smells.., and chaos” in most insulting manner with the aspersion thrown at the entire Hindu culture and community all over the world. Such generalization has no place in serious scholarly work.

Pg 509 - ”Shankara and the philosopher’s wife…This tale contrasts sex and renunciation in such a way that the renunciant philosopher is able to have his cake and eat it, to triumph not only in the world of the mind (in which, before this episode begins, he wins a series of debates against the nonrenouncing male Mimamsa philosopher) but in the world of the body, represented by the philosopher’s wife (not to mention the harem women who clearly prefer Shankara to the king in bed).” The author attributes the tale to Shankaradigvijaya of Madhava and to Ravichandra's commentary on Amarushataka.

COMMENT: The author concocts the story as a sexual orgy in which the Saint Adi Shankara and King Amruka take turns making love to the latter’s wives after he is tired. Both her sources however state that the King was already dead and the Saint transferred his soul into the dead King’s body through his yogic powers. There is no suggestion in the texts that the queens ‘prefer Shankara to the king in bed’.

Pg 571- It is alleged that in a hymn from Saint Kshetrayya’s poetry, ‘God rapes’ the women devotees.

COMMENT: The hymn merely presents devotion using spiritual metaphors and the hymns of the Saint seen collectively depict it as a passionate love affair between the God and the devotees. No rape is implied in this hymn at all.

Again, the above is simply a sampling of the scandalous and offensive statements in the book. By her own admission in the book, Doniger has no credentials as a historian and the title of the book is misleading as the book is not on the “History nor an Alternative History” of India. This shows that the author is not an authority on the subject as she is not able to understand the deep meaning of Sanskrit verses or Indian Concepts. These cast serious doubts about the author’s integrity as a researcher and ability to interpret accurately. Additional examples of the author’s shoddy scholarship will be made available upon request.

We emphasize that this defamatory book misinforms readers about the history of Hindu civilization, its cultures and traditions. The book promotes prejudices and biases against Hindus. Can Penguin’s editors really be incompetent enough to have allowed this to pass to publication? If this is not deliberate malice, Penguin must act now in good faith.

As concerned readers, we ask PENGUIN GROUP to:

1. WITHDRAW all the copies of this book immediately from the worldwide bookshops/markets/Universities/Libraries and refrain from printing any other edition.

2. APOLOGIZE for having published this book “The Hindus: An Alternative History”. This book seriously and grossly misrepresents the Hindu reality as known to the vast numbers of Hindus and to scholars of Hindu tradition. PENGUIN must apologize for failure to observe proper pre-publication scrutiny and scholarly review.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned

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According to Dr. Kalyanraman, the foregoing is only a small sample of factual errors, derogatory, defamatory and offensive comments in Doniger's  book. If he were to list out all the 'factual errors, derogatory, defamatory and offensive comments', then perhaps his book would be as large as the one he is commenting upon. 

In a reply to Dr. Shukla's article in Washington Post, Doniger argued that her book did well in India, it was on the best-seller lists and sold 10,000 copies. The figure could well be an exaggeration; she might have taken the same liberty with truth in boasting about the sales of her book as she did with much of what is in it. For with a price tag of Rs 999, it is doubtful so many Indians had a taste for the bilge that it contains. The curiosity aroused by the title and the rave reviews of some magazines which have a penchant to celebrate anti-Hindu calumny might have sold a few copies. 

TAILPIECE:

I found this sloka in Calling Her Bluff, Ms. Chitra Raman's appraisal of Wendy Doniger's porn-fiction in the garb of "alternative history". It is so apt to the context that I reproduce it here with her English translation, because many scholars of Indian mythology claim scholarship without even a nodding acquaintance with Sanskrit. I salute her for her wit and sense of humour in selecting this sloka.

Ushtraanam cha vivaaheshu geetham gaayanthi gardabhaah I
Parasparam prashamsanthi "aho roopam!" "aho dhwanih!" II

At the wedding of camels, the donkeys perform songs.
Each praises the other: "What beauty!" "What melody!"

"Camels and donkeys may well bask in mutual self-admiration. But this should not hold the rest of us back from seeing them as they are.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Catholic Defends Hindu Deities!

We have reproduced below the open letter written by Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja to Mr N. Ram, the Editor of ‘The Hindu’ and posted on her ‘Hildraja’s Blog’. She has written a similar letter to Mr. Aditya Sinha, the Editor-in-Chief of The New Indian Express.

Obviously the Editorial campaigns run by the two newspapers to bring back M. F. Hussain to India shocked and angered her. The letter has been re-posted on many blogsites. You can be sure that the letters were not published by the two newspapers.

Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja, a former professor in Stella Maris College, Chennai was associated with many NGOs as a Development Consultant: she was Consultant for UNICEF and the World Bank funded Tamil Nadu Government’s Water Resources Consolidation Project. She was a member of the National Curriculum Development Committee for Community Development in the TATA Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and a permanent member on the board of the National Schools of Social Work. She was associated with many church organizations and was nominated a member on the Advisory Committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. She was on the Editorial Board of the New Leader, a national fortnightly for the Catholics published from Chennai.

She and her husband, a retired professor from Loyola College, Chennai live with their son and family in Vadodara.This is what Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja has to say of her life and beliefs:

“Much water has flowed since those days - having studied throughout in Minority Institutions and reared in a Christian ethos I am aware of what I have lost and what I have gained! It is a tragedy that one should seek Jesus and his values outside the church. I am fully convinced that the Hindu soul is secular and the Hindu dharma which guides the lives of the Hindus are totally misunderstood by other religions. There is no place for conversion because this ancient land of ours was already oriented to its Creator and the people had connected to the Supreme Being of the Cosmos. Much before Christianity / Islam appeared our forefathers had their religion. It was their openness and utterly secular outlook which enabled all world religions to make India their home. To me India and all that it holds is sacred.”

CHO RAMASWAMY: Cho Ramaswamy, who needs no introduction as a political commentator, journalist, lawyer and satirist (and of course as an actor and film maker-director) directly addressed Hussain in his inimitable style. His article, 'Feel Free Mr. Hussain, Go Paint Qatari Leaders' has appeared in the Deccan Chronicle of March 10, 2010. The article may be accessed from: http://ur.lc/hrc*

*Update - June 12, 2011: It appears Deccan Chronicle has since removed Cho Ramaswami's article from its website. Therefore this link does not work any more. However the article was reproduced by some bloggers and is available on the internet.
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Dear Ram,

I have taken time to write this to you Ram for the simple reason that we have known you for so many years - you and The Hindu bring back happy memories. Please take what I am putting down as those that come from an agonized soul. You know that I do not mince words and what I have to say I will - I call a spade a spade - now it is too late for me to learn the tricks of being called a ‘secularist’ if that means a bias for, one, and a bias against, another.

Hussain is now a citizen of Qatar - this has generated enough of heat and less of light. Qatar you know better than me is not a country which respects democracy or freedom of expression. Hussain says he has complete freedom - I challenge him to paint a picture of Mohammed fully clad.

There is no second opinion that artists have the Right of Freedom of expression. Is such a right restricted only to Hussain? Will that right not flow to Dan Brown-why was his film - Da Vinci Code not screened? Why was Satanic Verses banned - does Salman Rushdie not have that freedom of expression? Similarly why is Taslima hunted and hounded and why fatwas have been issued on both these writers? Why has Qatar not offered citizenship to Taslima? In the present rioting in Shimoga in Karnataka against the article Taslima wrote against the tradition of burqua which appeared in the OUTLOOK in Jan 2007.No body protested then either in Delhi or in any other part of the country; now when it reappears in a Karnataka paper there is rioting. Is there a political agenda to create a problem in Karnataka by the intolerant goons? Why has the media not condemned this insensitivity and intolerance of the Muslims against Taslima’s views? When it comes to the Sangh Parivar it is quick to call them goons and intolerant etc. Now who are the goons and where is this tolerance and sensitivity?

Regarding Hussain’s artistic freedom it seems to run unfettered in an expression of sexual perversion only when he envisages the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. There is no quarrel had he painted a nude woman sitting on the tail of a monkey. The point is he captioned it as Sita. Nobody would have protested against the sexual perversion and his orientation to sexual signs and symbols. But would he dare to caption it as ‘Fatima enjoying in Jannat with animals’?

Next example is the painting of Saraswati copulating with a lion. Here again his perversion is evident and so is his intent. Even that let’s concede cannot be faulted - each one’s sexual orientation is each one’s business I suppose. But he captioned it as Saraswati. This is the problem. It is Hussain’s business to enjoy in painting his sexual perversion. But why use Saraswati and Sita for his perverted expressions? Use Fatima and watch the consequence. Let the media people come to his rescue then. Now that he is in a country that gives him complete freedom let him go ahead and paint Fatima copulating with a lion or any other animal of his choice. And then turn around and prove to India-the Freedom of expression he enjoys in Qatar.

Talking about Freedom of Expression - this is the Hussain who supported Emergency - painted Indira Gandhi as Durga slaying Jayaprakas Narayan. He supported the jailing of artists and writers. Where did this Freedom of Expression go? And you call him secularist? Would you support the jailing of artists and writers Ram – would you support the abeyance of the Constitution and all that we held sacred in democracy and the excessiveness of Indira Gandhi to gag the media-writers - political opponents? Tell me honesty why does Hussain expect this Freedom when he himself did not support others with the same freedom he wants? And the media has rushed to his rescue. Had it been a Ram who painted such obnoxious, degrading painting - the reactions of the media and the elite ‘secularists’ would have been different; because there is a different perception/and index of secularism when it comes to Ram-and a different perception/and index of secularism when it comes to Rahim/Hussain.

[We are not aware of this masterpiece by Hussain, but can understand The Hindu’s compulsions in welcoming the infamous Emergency. Earlier the paper was hounded out by the then DMK government, some say, for being a Brahmin business. There were rumours that the paper was actually planning to shift outside Tamil Nadu possibly to Bangalore.

In any case when Indira Gandhi dismissed the DMK government soon after imposing emergency she became the enemy’s enemy - a friend! She appointed The Hindu’s proprietor-editor to head Samachar - the news agency she cobbled up after nationalising and amalgamating four private news agencies – in order to control the flow of all information in the country. Her advisers were well-versed with George Orwell’s 1984.

For The Hindu, as with the rest, self preservation was more important and democratic freedoms be damned! Newspapers which till then proudly proclaimed that they fought the British, suddenly caved in and genuflected before the empress of emergency - the only honourable exceptions being Ram Nath Goenka’s ‘Indian Express’ and C. R. Irani’s ‘The Statesman’.

All this was before N. Ram’s time. When he became Chief of the empire, the decent thing he could have done was to change the name of the paper – wasn’t it anathema to his secular ideals? Again commercial interests prevailed over cherished ideals, for with the name also goes the paper’s brand equity.

RNG and CRI have passed from the scene. Where Indira Gandhi could not bend the two patriarchs from their ideals, the passage of time and commercial interests have certainly made their successors crawl before the establishment. Some newspapers have developed an incestuous relationship with the electronic media thus removing any checks and balances that the one may have on the other. - VOXINDICA]

It brings back to my mind an episode that happened to The Hindu some years ago [1991]. You had a separate weekly page for children with cartoons, quizzes, and with poems and articles of school children. In one such weekly page The Hindu printed a venerable bearded man-fully robed with head dress, mouthing some passages of the Koran-trying to teach children .It was done not only in good faith but as a part of inculcating values to children from the Koran. All hell broke loose. Your office witnessed goons who rushed in-demanded an apology-held out threats. In Ambur, Vaniambadi and Vellore the papers stands were burned-the copies of The Hindu were consigned to the fire. A threat to raise the issue in Parliament through a Private Members Bill was held out-Hectic activities went on-I am not sure of the nature and the machinations behind the scene. But The Hindu next day brought out a public apology in its front page. Where were you Ram? How secular and tolerant were the Muslims?

[All four newspapers in Bangalore, Deccan Herald, Indian Express, The Hindu and The Times of India faced the wrath of a ‘particular community’, at one time or other and promptly apologised. A former senior journalist and popular columnist writing for Indian Express then had to go underground several days for fear of his life.

The recent attack against Kannada Prabha in Mangalore seems all the more poignant because, only a couple of days before the incident, her stable-mate The New Indian Express self-righteously scorched 'right wing thugs' for hounding out M. F. Hussain with such incandescence, that the TNIE seems to have had no battery power left to be used against the offenders of Kannada Prabha.

The external intelligence agency of a small West Asian nation, reportedly has a way to persuade the nation's opponents to cease and desist from a course of action considered inimical to its interests. It issues a verbal warning first, then an orthopedic warning and finally a permanent one. It works. The agency is both respected and feared.

Our pseudo-secular media friends too understand the logic and never complain. They comply. This is the reason why last year a Hyderabad newspaper promptly apologised to a ‘particular community’ even before it was asked to do so.

On the other hand all that the Hindus do is clog internet space to vent their anger and therefore evoke only derision from our PSMF. It is easy to deride ‘Internet Hindus’ without any fear of retribution, orthopaedic or otherwise. Recently, the shrieking shrew of a news channel told a questioner that he was a moron, all for asking why the media practised double standards. You are right, the questioner was a Hindu. According to an 'IH' who commented on a newspaper article, the ‘Kashmir' siren of another news channel had the temerity to call all Hindu protesters ‘gutter-snipes’. - VOXINDICA]

Well this is of the past - today it is worse because the communal temperature in this country is at an all time high - even a small friction can ignite and demolish the country’s peace and harmony. It is against this background that one should view Hussain who is bent on abusing and insulting the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Respect for religious sentiments, need to maintain peace and harmony should also be part of the agenda of an artist-if he is great. If it is absent then he cannot say that he respects India and express his longing for India.

Let’s face it-he is a fugitive of law. Age and religion are immaterial. What does the media want-that he be absolved by the courts? Even for that he has to appear in the courts-he cannot run away-After all this is the country where he lived and gave expression to his pervert sadist, erotic artistic mind under Freedom of Expression. I simply cannot jump into the bandwagon of the elite ‘secularist’ and uphold what he had done. With his brush he had committed jihad - bloodletting.

The issue is just not nudity - Yes the temples - the frescos in Konarak and Kajhuraho have nude figures - But does it say that they are Sita, Sarswati or any goddesses? We have the Yoni and the Phallus as sacred signs of Life - of Siva and Shakthi - take these icons to the streets, paint them - give it a caption it becomes vulgar. Times have changed. Even granted that our ancients sculptured and painted naked forms and figures, with a pervert mind to demean religion is no license to repeat that in today’s changed political and social scenario and is not a sign of secularism and tolerance. I repeat there is no quarrel with nudity - painters have time and again found in it the perfection of God’s hand craft.

Let me wish Hussain peace in Qatar - the totalitarian regime with zero tolerance. May be he will convince the regime there to permit freedom of expression in word, writing and painting. For this he could start experimenting painting forms and figure of Mohamed the Prophet and his family. And may I fervently wish that the media - especially The Hindu does not discriminate goons - let it not substitute tolerance for intolerance when it comes to Rahim and Antony and another index for Ram.

I hope you will read this in the same spirit that I have written. All the best to you Ram.

Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja
Vadodara
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OUR EARLIER POSTS ON M. F. HUSSAIN FOR FURTHER READING:
ARTISTIC FREEDOM & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

http://ur.lc/hsr

DECCAN CHRONICLE APOLOGISES - HUSSAIN DOESN'T!

http://ur.lc/hss

M. F. HUSSAIN - SECULAR HOLY COW OR MARKET DRIVEN PEDDLER?

http://ur.lc/hsq

OBITER DICTA ON ARTISTIC FREEDOM AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

http://ur.lc/hst