Jnanpith-award winning writer U.R. Ananthamurthy has expressed dismay over the interim injunction against the sale, distribution, circulation or reprint of the Kannada novel Dhundi by Yogesh Master.

“Had this been the yardstick to judge a literary work, I should have been arrested long ago and Samskara and Bharatipura should have been banned for hurting the sentiments of Brahmins,” Prof. Ananthamurthy said. He said he would not like to react to the controversy as it involved a court decision.

Prof. Ananthamurthy said he had spoken to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and expressed his disappointment over the arrest.

‘Read the book’

The former president of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Chandrashekar Patil, said instead of taking the legal recourse, the critics of the work should allow people to read and judge what was right or what was wrong with the book.

“The work should be read and discussed and it is the readers who have to evaluate the merits, not the administrative machinery, especially the police,” he said. “These developments have pained me.”

Larger questions

Writer Banjagere Jayaprakash said that the writer was irrelevant and the questions were much larger.

“What is bothering is the shrinking of radical thinking space and the hegemony of right-wing forces on the social discourse,” he said. “Level of intolerance is rising in society.”

He said it was “a knee-jerk reaction.”

Nothing new

Controversies surrounding literary works are not new in Kannada, though this is the first instance of a writer being arrested.

One of the earliest controversies in the post-Independence period was around Masti Venkatesh Iyengar’s novels Channabasava Nayaka and Chikaveera Rajendra published in the fifties.

Incurring the wrath

Both incurred the wrath of the numerically strong Lingayat community. Samskara (1965) and Bharatipura (1973), two popular works of Prof. Ananthamurthy, incurred the wrath of the Brahmin community.

Gulbarga University withdrew Mahachaitra by H.S. Shivaprakash, which depicted the 12th Century social reformer Basaveshwara in 1995. Dharmakarana by P.V. Narayana became controversial in 1996, a year after it was published, when it won an award, leading to its ban.

Mr. Jayaprakash withdrew his book Aanu Deva Horaganavanu after it became controversial in 2007. Gandhi Banda by H. Nagaveni landed in controversy 12 years after it was published, when it became prescribed for study in Mangalore University in 2012.

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