‘Let’s not rake it up again,’ says muzzled author of ‘Meesha’

S. Hareesh withdraws his debut novel after the ultra right-wing relentlessly heckles and threatens him and his family

Published - July 23, 2018 10:20 pm IST - KOCHI

“Let’s not rake it up again,” the shudder in the voice on the other end of the line is palpable as award-winning writer S. Hareesh politely declines to talk about his decision to withdraw his debut novel Meesha (‘Moustache’ ), barely into its third instalment, from the Mathrubhumi Weekly in Malayalam. Mr. Hareesh has been facing relentless heckling and violent threats against his family and children on social media and over the phone by groups and individuals owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar.

He is in no hurry to bring out the novel, set in a milieu of the feudal Kerala of some 50 years ago, as a volume either. Mr. Hareesh, a noted short-story writer, who works as a government clerk in his native Neendoor in the upper Kuttanad region, and his wife, had earlier deactivated their account on Facebook, following online harassment.

His mobile phone remained switched off for most part of the last few days, as the ultra-right wing demanded an apology from the editor and the writer for “insulting temple priests and Hindu worship.” Protests were led to the Mathrubhumi Group’s offices, and the Hindu Aikya Vedi vandalised an exhibition of spiritual books by the publishing group, in Tripunithura.

In his letter to the publishers, Mr. Hareesh said he had worked on the novel for five years, but a portion of it was being de-contextualised for a vilification campaign against him and his family. “I face unrelenting threats on social media. Pictures of my wife and two small children are being used for vulgar assault. My mother, sister and deceased father are being maligned. Several cases have been filed against me with the police and the Women’s Commission,” he said, explaining his reason to pull out the novel.

‘Not going to sue’

He added that the work would be brought out in a volume only when society was mature enough to receive it. “I am not going to sue those who harassed me. I am averse to wasting my life trapped in our justice system. Further, I don’t have the strength to fight those who rule the country,” Mr. Hareesh wrote.

In the meantime, reports were rife about the novelist pulling out his work under pressure from the management of the Mathrubhumi Weekly — a charge that the Managing Editor of the Mathrubhumi Group P.V. Chandran rebuffs. “The accusation is baseless. The weekly is one of our several publications and has editorial independence. I have not read the novel in question nor have I commented on it,” he told The Hindu , when asked if he thought the novel denigrated Hindu women.

The ultra right-wing is infuriated with a conversation in the third chapter between two characters belonging to the subaltern on the libidinous motives of upper caste women going to a temple. Filmmaker Sanju Surendran, who had read the entire novel in manuscript, said the conversation formed part of a grand literary masterpiece and it wouldn’t make sense reading it in isolation. “It [the novel] is a labyrinth leading/misleading the reader to so many spaces. One can get lost in the myth, fact, fiction, history and geography of Meesha … It is a tragedy that the novel had to be withdrawn due to right-wing terror.”

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