Academics and writers have rallied behind Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, the target of an organised campaign by the Sangh Parivar, which has objected to his novel Madhorubhagan .
In deference to the protesters’ wishes, the police are reportedly considering filing an FIR against Mr. Murugan, who has written about a consensual sex ritual that took place at the Arthanareeswarar temple car festival in Tiruchengode in the past.
“It is really sad that the situation has come to such a pass in Tamil Nadu, the land of Periyar, a radical and an iconoclast,” said Prof A.R. Venkatachalapathy of the Madras Institute of Development Studies.
He said the protesters did not relent even after Mr Murugan issued a clarification to assuage the feelings of those who had been offended by the contents of the book.
He had also agreed to remove certain portions in the next edition of the book.
“It is a story about a childless couple and the book should be seen in its entirety. Citing a few passages out of context is unacceptable,” Mr Venkatachalapathy said.
Consensual sex, he said, was not something uncommon in Indian society.
“Niyoga, the Hindu tradition, has always allowed a childless woman to have children through a man other than her husband. It is called Niyoga Dharma,” he said, while adding that a modern literary work cannot be a yardstick to judge the past.
Alleging that fundamentalism seemed to have crept into every walk of life in the country, Sahitya Akademi winner Indira Parthasarathy said he could not have written Kuruthipunal or Nandan Kathai in the present circumstances.
“The BJP government led by Narendra Modi seems to have opened the Pandora's Box of intolerance and the Sangh Parivar’s reconversion efforts bears testimony to the situation,” he said.
Mr. Parthasarathy said it seemed that in the future a writer might be forced to write only about love affairs confined to a particular community as inter-caste or inter-religious love affairs would not be taken lightly.
Another Sahitya Akademi winner Joe D’ Cruz said covering up what could be termed as social indiscipline would lead society nowhere.
Mr. Cruz, who faced the prospect of his novel Aazhi Sool Ulagu translated into English being suspend for publication, said that what was considered as social indiscipline or unacceptable in society could be eradicated only if they are told to the next generation.
Prof V. Arasu, former head of the Department of Tamil of the Madras Universtiy, described the protests as a “fascist attack on the rights of a writer.”
“The author has only dealt with a century-old folk myth and it cannot be seen as a commentary on the present day society. Culling out a portion of a book and quoting it out of context to achieve political mileage cannot be accepted,” he said.
Traders down shutters
S.P. Saravanan writes from Namakkal: Demanding the arrest of Perumal Murugan and seeking ban on his novel Madhorubhagan , traders in Tiruchengode town downed shutters on Friday.
All the shops, excluding medical shops, were closed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Shopkeepers said that they voluntarily closed the shops to show their protest against the writer and sought ban on the novel. The writer portrays members of certain communities in a wrong manner. We strongly condemn it, they said.