The editorial “Irrational protests” (March 3) superbly brings out the significance of the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution. There can be no doubt that it is the game plan of obscurantist organisations, both Hindu and Muslim, to exploit situations such as those arising out of the burqa article in the Kannada newspaper to intimidate progressive writers who dare to question patriarchal interpretations of religion. In most cases, it is the religious leaders who fan the fires of aggressive reaction in the minds of the innocent laity. This Talibanisation and saffronisation of religious thought deserve not just to be condemned but also countered and neutralised. The Hindu has been doing a commendable job in this regard by giving voice to moderate viewpoints on religion, which is the only way to douse the flames of extremism. Having said that, free-thinking writers must also avoid provocative phraseology in their criticisms lest passionate reactions should render the purpose behind their reformative writings ineffective.
A. Faizur Rahman,
As rightly pointed out in the editorial, any attempt to coerce the freedom of speech by any kind of dictates should be put down with an iron hand. The pussyfooting statements by our politicians will only encourage transgression of the secular Constitution in suppressing the individual freedom of critical reasoning so essential for preserving our fundamental rights. The “hurting the sentiment” syndrome, which can be selectively interpreted, can be used to stifle all creative thinking and should not be entertained.
The article in a Kannada daily — translation of an essay said to be written by Taslima Nasreen — may be against the tenets of Islam but the manner of protest is a direct challenge to our secular character. Our system allows people to protest in a democratic way. Violent protests make a mockery of democracy.
S. Irudaya Selvaraj,
The violence in Karnataka is disturbing. That a piece of writing can claim lives and destroy property is appalling. The Karnataka government should look into the matter seriously since Ms Nasreen has denied writing the controversial article. Action should be taken against those responsible for the violence and the newspaper that published the article.
How does it matter to non-Muslims and non-Sikhs if Muslim women wear the burqa or Sikhs wear the turban? People writing on such issues and the media carrying the story should be conscious of the consequences of their action and avoid needless public disturbances. Every community has its leaders. Let them deal with the issues concerning their religion.
It is with anguish that I note that religious tolerance has been reduced to words with each passing day. It is difficult to understand why some fundamentalist organisations found it necessary to indulge in violence to protest against an article on the burqa. Fundamentalists bring the country and its social fabric to the brink.
The violence in Hassan and Shimoga underscores the fact that religious fanaticism and obscurantism are on the rise. More disturbing is the fact that some extremist groups draw the cause of their existence from such deplorable violence. Fundamentalist groups in all religions control mobs loyal to them to unleash violence to the detriment of secularism. Everyone has a right to express his or her views. Those who try to suppress them pose a hindrance to the growth of a liberal society.
The common man has an underlying fear about his physical and psychological safety. Fundamentalists use this weakness to impose their ideology. Dadagiri seen in daily life, when organised on a larger scale, becomes fundamentalism. Bullies gain an upper hand when the rest of us cower. This becomes more complex when organised bullies of one group clash with the organised bullies of another group.
The common man needs help to become mentally stronger to be able to counter the growth of bullies. This will help reduce the growth of organised fundamentalists and goondas.
Ms Nasreen has clarified that she did not write the article, of which a ‘translation' was carried in the Kannada daily. Immediate action should be taken against the newspaper for publishing an article that was both provocative and unauthentic. Freedom of expression, undoubtedly, is a crucial aspect of journalism. But credibility is equally crucial. Regrettably, the Kannada daily ignored all principles of journalism.
It is perhaps the first instance when Ms Nasreen has not intentionally come to the limelight. The newspaper seems to have used her name.