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Archives for : Censorship

Withdraw FIR against journalist/cartoonist Swathi Vadlamudi




On Saturday, the Hindu Sangathan in Hyderabad filed a police complaint against the maker of the cartoon – journalist Swathi Vadlamudi, as well as another journalist who had earlier shared the cartoon, for “hurting the sentiments of Hindus”.

Meanwhile, Swathi, who shared her cartoon on Facebook on April 11, has been at the receiving end of plenty of online abuse. And the irony is that the people slamming the cartoon took the same abusive and misogynistic tones that the cartoon was pointing out.

“I have been making cartoons for a long time now and have made them on controversial issues earlier as well. But it never invited this kind of backlash,” a bewildered Swathi tells TNM.

Since this particular cartoon though, her social media, including WhatsApp, has been flooded with all kinds of abuse. “Most of it is extremely misogynistic and aimed at silencing me,” she observes.

One person for instance, insinuated that Swathi would meet the same fate as journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her residence in Bengaluru in September, 2017. Another accused her of taking money from the Muslim community for writing anti-saffron posts and being part of the terrorist outfit ISIS.

She was even threatened with a Charlie Hebdo style attack – the French weekly magazine’s Paris office was attacked by two armed men in January 2015 after they published a satirical cartoon on Prophet Mohammed. The shooting killed 12 people and injured several others.

There were many, of course, who simply resorted to slut shaming her.


On April 13, Swathi responded to the people abusing her online. Read her Facebook post here:

These were the abusive/hate/threatening/menacing/sickening/patronising comments and messages I have received on FB for…

Posted by Swathi Vadlamudi on Friday, April 13, 2018

Following this too, Swathi’s Facebook inbox continued to be inundated with messages calling her a “coward” for not quietly taking the “backlash” for posting the cartoon.

Swathi admits that all of this, the death threats especially, have indeed frightened her. “I’m an earning member of my family. They are also worried about me,” she says.

However, she makes it clear that she won’t stop making cartoons. “I don’t think I’d be doing right by myself if I stopped. Besides, this is just reflective of the political climate in the country right now. And it’s at times like these that it’s most important to continue resisting,” Swathi says.

The Network of Women in the Media, India (NWMI), a forum for women media professionals across the country, strongly condemns the filing of an FIR against journalist and cartoonist Swathi Vadlamudi. The FIR, filed on 14 April at Saidabad police station in Hyderabad, under Section 295 (a) of the IPC (“deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs”), was filed by Hindu Sanghatan, an off-shoot group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an ultra-Hindu right group.

The cartoon in question, published on Swathi’s social media pages (Twitter and Facebook) on 10 and 11 April, depicts the mythical Hindu gods, Ram and Sita, on the issue of abduction and violence against women in India. The message in the cartoon does not in any way insult Sita or Ram; instead it poses a question to the public.

Besides the legal case, since 10 April Swathi has been on the receiving end of online abuse by Hindutva groups, where some users have threatened that she will meet the same fate as Gauri Lankesh and the murdered cartoonists of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in France. The Hindu Sanghatan has also slapped charges against Times Now Chennai Deputy Editor Shabbir Ahmed who merely shared her cartoon on his Twitter profile. Another cartoonist, Satish Acharya, is also being targeted with abuse and even death threats.

At a time when there is widespread outrage regarding violence against women in India, Swathi’s cartoons highlighted how unsafe India has become for women. The cartoon, which has so far been shared over 8000 times on Facebook, besides receiving several thousand ‘likes,’ has clearly touched a chord among the Indian public which in the recent past has seen abductions, brutal gang-rapes and murders of women and children in different parts of the country, from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, Surat in Gujarat and elsewhere.

Cartoons are among the oldest forms of expression and have been an integral part of the news media all over the world. Cartoons hold a mirror to the current world in a particularly effective manner that goes beyond what is captured by words (spoken or written), photographs or videos. In a vibrant democracy such an art and the artists who create it should be encouraged to thrive instead of being stifled by hate groups.

The NWMI demands that the Hyderabad police immediately drop all charges against Swathi Vadlamudi, Shabbir and anyone else against whom cases are filed in this context. They must also initiate prompt action against those abusing and threatening Swathi Vadlamudi, Shabbir Ahmed, Satish Acharya and any others in connection with this matter.

Law enforcers must not yield to bullying tactics by majoritarian groups that endanger free speech in the country by taking their claims of “hurt religious sentiments” and “offence” at face value. They need to act to safeguard Constitutionally protected free expression and to adopt a zero tolerance approach to death threats.

The Editors’ Guild of India and Press Council of India must take suo moto notice of such legal and other attacks on media professionals, including and especially women (who are often targeted in particular, gender-related ways), and come out strongly in their support and defence.

April 16, 2018

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A decade later: A film on Lokmanya Tilak was never made but funds squandered; files missing, babus spared, reveals RTI

This story dates back to 2001 when a special cell called Commemoration Bureau was set up by the Ministry of Culture, with a Rs200 crore fund to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Indian Republic, wherein a sum of Rs2.5 crore was allocated for making a movie on one of the leading freedom fighters, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Over a decade later, Right to Information (RTI) reply reveals that the entire sum was transferred to the account of the movie producer Vinay Dhumale  in two instalments but the movie was never made; the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation prosecuted the producer but spared government babus as it failed to explore the angle of `missing files’ in this case.

The Central Information Commission, in its final order of 27 February 2018, stated vehemently that, although an FIR has been filed against the “unknown’’ officials in this ministry, “This action is not sufficient to punish the concerned and prevent this kind of corrupt practices.’’
Central Information Commissioner Prof Dr M Sridhar Acharyulu appreciated RTI applicant VR Kamalapurkar, who has been pursuing information on this issue since 2012, for bringing to light this scandal through RTI and “the pathetic state of not keeping the required records for which any public authority should be ashamed of. The CIC also mentioned the efforts of CBI and hoped prosecution would be expedited.”
Kamalapurkar, through numerous RTI applications filed since 13 December 2012, sought information on the status of the film. The Special Cell denied information as no records of the film were available with the Cell.
Subsequently, through another RTI application addressed to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, he procured copy of the sanction order, which established the fact that funds worth Rs2.5 crore were released in two instalments to Dhumale for making the film on Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Efforts were again made to trace the concerned file but it could not be located. Kamalapurkar then filed his second appeal with the CIC. The matter was also referred to the CBI for investigation.
The CIC directed enquiry into missing files, to furnish information about budget allocation and the list of programs conducted and asked the office of CBI, New Delhi to inform it about the time they need to finalise the investigation report. The CIC stated, “Though officers claimed to have made intensive search for missing files they could not show any document reflecting their efforts. They have not made up any case against any officer or found anybody responsible for the last custody or the loss, nor have they filed any FIR regarding the missing file.’’
CIC further noted, “It is surprising that the Ministry of Culture sanctioned Rs100 crore for the celebration of the golden jubilee of the Indian Republic and released Rs2.5 crore to a person for making a movie on Bal Gangadhar Tilak and simply ignores its responsibility of following up. It is to the credit of the RTI Act that this major lapse has been exposed; still it remains a tragedy that the Ministry has lost the entire record regarding this huge grant, that too without any consequence.’’
The CIC also noted, “The Ministry of Culture is in such a pathetic state that until the appellant Kamalapurkar complained, they did not know that entire money granted on the movie on Bal Gangadhar Tilak was swindled. It is surprising why the Ministry is not seriously probing or taking action on the loss of the file during the last 12 years.”
During the CIC hearing on 10 January 2018, Kamalapurkar and the officers from the Ministry complained that the CBI has completed the investigations but considers the report as a secret document, which cannot be shared with either of them.  Nirmala Goyal, the deputy secretary of this Ministry admitted that the loss of such an important file will have a serious impact on establishing the charge of misappropriation of these funds.
She also revealed that in order to save his skin, Dhumale actually submitted to the Ministry, “a CD of the movie, which appears to be an abridged version of the 7-episode serial on Doordarshan on Bal Gangadhar Tilak, which means the producer has played a fraud on the Ministry by showing the old TV serial as a new movie.” The CIC directed the CBI to provide complete information as asked for by Kamalapurkar as it is of “huge public interest”.
Charge sheet is not a secret document
The Commission held that the claim of the CBI representative that charge-sheet is a secret document is quite illegal and against the tenets of open prosecution in criminal justice system. It says, “When a charge-sheet forms the basis and beginning of public prosecution of the accused, how can it be secured as secret and how can it be denied to the complainant i.e., the department and to the appellant because of whose RTI the Rs2.5 crore scandal has come out?
The Commission directed the CPIO of CBI to provide a certified copy of the charge-sheet to the respondent authority and also the appellant. “The CBI representative KS Pathania, DSP, questioned the officers of the Ministry of Culture during the hearing to ask them what they had done for the last 12 years to trace the file. But the question is, why did the CBI not probe this angle also? This Commission advises the CBI and the Ministry of Culture to probe into the missing of the key file in the scandal and inform the Commission about the action,” the Commission said.
When the case came up for hearing on 18 February 2018 with the CIC before the final disposal on 27 February 2018, CBI officers said that the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Delhi’s Patiala House Court has initiated the prosecution of Vinay Dhumale, principal accused, based on the charge sheet filed by the CBI.
CIC though observed in its 27th February order that “However, it is not known till today as to whether any investigation was taken up against the public servants who handed over a huge amount running into crores and what happened to the records. The public authority is under the obligation to provide the copies of the records to the appellant, which cannot be wiped of simply because they have issued a search memorandum. It is atrocious that Vinay Dhumale has shown the old TV episode clips as his new movie and none checked it in the Ministry before parting away Rs2.5 crore.”

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No ‘Hey Ram’ in title for film on Gandhian ideology

Censors clear film four days before release with truncated title, Savarkar’s name deleted and a photograph replaced

On June 15, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary as the International Day of Non-Violence. A decade later, an inspired Naeem A Siddiqui decided to pay a tribute to the Father of the Nation with a film he titled Hey Ram Humne Gandhi Ko Maar Diya and which revolved around two strangers with completely opposite ideologies who meet on the train on January 28,1948. The events that unfold over their two-day journey which includes Gandhi’s assassination leave a lasting impact not just on these two, but also on the country and the world at large.

Siddiqui wrapped up his film in four-and-a-half months which included a 22-day shoot but then had to wait for a month for the film to be cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). It was passed on Monday evening with a ‘U’ certificate, a couple of minor cuts and the two words commonly associated with Gandhi as they were the last ones he uttered, ‘Hey Ram’, snipped out of the title. It will now be unveiled as Humne Gandhi Ho Maar Diya this Friday.

“I tried convincing the Examining Committee to let me retain the words ‘Hey Ram’ but they were adamant that I should drop them without offering me any explanation for their objection. Since my film was up for release, I didn’t have the time to convince them otherwise. I would have been happy had I been allowed to retain my original title and not have to change my publicity material but I’m just relieved that the film is finally releasing,” says the first-time director who was also asked to replace a photograph of Dr KB Hedgewar founder member of the RSS and delete Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s name unless he could provide proof of his statement.

Though there are references to the British’s divide-and-rule policy, two Jinnah and the Muslim League as well as the Hindu Mahasabha that propagated the two-nation theory that lead to the Partition, Siddiqui is quick to point out that he is not alluding to present politics or wants to hurt anyone’s sentiments. “Pratima Kannan embodies Gandhian philosophy of love, peace, tolerance and non-violence in my film and I believe that this is the only philosophy which can fight hate, fear and violence that is stirred up in the name of religion, caste and racism,” he added.


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Diljit Dosanjh’s ‘Pant Mein Gun’ gets into legal trouble


Multiple complaints have been registered against the actor and ‘Welcome to New York‘ makers for the song.

Diljit Dosanjh in a still from 'Pant Mein Gun.'

 Diljit Dosanjh in a still from ‘Pant Mein Gun.’

Mumbai: A 59-year-old Mumbai resident has filed a complaint before a court here against the makers of upcoming Bollywood film ‘Welcome to New York’, alleging that a song in it was “vulgar” and that it hurt the sentiments of a particular community.


The complainant, Harjeet Singh, has moved an application before the court, seeking an order to register a case under section 294 (obscene acts and songs), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts) of the IPC as well as relevant sections of the IT Act against the film’s actor and singer (Diljit Dosanjh), lyricist (Danish Sabri) and music director (Sajid and Wajid). Singh has moved similar applications in courts of Punjab and Delhi as well.

The complainant alleged that the song, ‘Pant Mein Gun hai’, of the film was “indecent, had patently offensive content and was unfit for public viewing”. Singh also alleged that the song promoted lust, greed, pride and anger.

“The video of the song, showing the lead actor (Diljit) dressed as a Sikh and mouthing obscene lyrics and dancing in an obscene manner, hurts the religious sentiments of Sikhs,” he said.

Not just that, a Sikh petitioner has also registered a complaint against Diljit and the song for the inappropriate lyrics and an FIR has been filed, according to a report in Mid-day.


A source close to the development said Singh is furious because “Sikhs keep katar (daggers)” not guns.


“The petitioner has alleged that the lyrics go against the principles of Sikhism. He suggests Diljit Dosanjh should have respected the teachings of the community before singing the song. Diljit has never faced a situation like this one before,” the source added.


“Our client, Pooja Films, as the film’s producer, has been receiving numerous telephone calls and many police complaints and pleas in court have been filed, objecting to the lyrics of the song. All these allegations are false and baseless,” Vibhav Krishna, the lawyer representing the film’s producer, said.

The producer of the movie, Vashu Bhagnani, said, “Our intention was not to hurt the sentiments of anyone, least of all religious sentiments of anybody. It’s deeply unfortunate that a fun song has been taken out of context. Welcome To New York is supposed to be a light funny film and the song ‘Pant Mein Gun Hai’ is along the same lines. It’s supposed to make people laugh and not upset them. We are really sorry if anyone’s religious sentiments have been hurt, but that was not our intention at all.”

‘Welcome to New York’ has also sparked a row for having Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice in one of the songs.

Wajid, one-half of the composing duo Sajid-Wajid sounds genuinely stunned by the allegations. “Mera tashan…Pant Mein Gun…this was my brother Sajid’s catchphrase and we used it to create a climactic song sequence for Diljit Dosanjh who plays a guy with a do-or-die chance to perform on stage. Vulgarity ka toh koi sawaal hi nahin hai. During all these years that my brother and I have been composing songs for films we’ve never ever resorted to double meanings or suggestive lyrics. We would not be able to look into the mirror if we did something obscene. Yes, there was some accusation of vulgarity in that item song Fevicol in Dabangg 2. But we never intended that song to be vulgar. And we never intended this song (Pant Mein Gun) to be vulgar.”

As for a section of the Sikh community being offended, Wajid is appalled by the suggestion of causing offence. “We would never ever dream of causing offence to any community. Look, Diljit Dosanjh is a fine and responsible member of the Sikh community. He heard the song and he loved it. Would he do anything to hurt the sentiments of his community? He is actually on the stage in the film with a gun on his hand. So where is the question of a double-meaning?”

Wajid feels artistes and musicians must be very careful today. “And we are very careful to not indulge in any kind offensive behaviour. If nonetheless some choose to get offended what can we do? I seriously think protesters should stop barking up the wrong tree. They should look at the songs and the music videos that deliberately objectify women and portray them in a crude and offensive manner. They are all over the internet and on television. You can’t watch them with your family. Ours is a fun song. We saw no double meaning in it until people pointed it out. It’s all in the mind, I guess.”

The film is slated to be released this Friday.

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SC Stays Criminal Proceedings Against Priya Prakash Varrier #FOE

The 18-year-old actress also sought top court’s direction to prohibit states from initiating any criminal proceedings against her.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed all criminal proceedings against actress Priya Prakash Varrier, who recently became an internet sensation for her wink in a song of a Malayalam movie.

Varrier had moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking quashing of an FIR lodged against her in Telangana.

The 18-year-old actress also sought top court’s direction to prohibit states from initiating any criminal proceedings against her. In her plea, Varrier, a student of B.Com from a college in Thrissur district of Kerala, sought protection from an FIR lodged on complaints alleging that the lyrics of the song ‘Manikya Malaraya Poovi’ from the movie ‘Oru Addar Love’ was “offensive” or has “violated the religious sentiment of a particular community”.

In her plea, she said that an FIR has been lodged against her on February 14 at Falaknama police station at Hyderabad on a complaint that alleges that the song hurt the religious sentiment of a particular community.

She said that on the same day, a criminal complaint was also filed by the Secretary of Raza Academy, Mumbai, with the Commissioner of Police to take appropriate action against the petitioners, taking down the video and prevent it from being broadcast.

“The present petition has been filed as a result of multiple criminal proceedings which have been instituted against the petitioners in the States of Telangana and Maharashtra. The complaint filed is against the song titled ‘Manikya Malaraya Poovi’ which was released on Youtube as a song of the film. In Telangana, an FIR has already been registered against the Petitioner no.2. (director of the movie).

“The criminal complaints have been instituted by various fringe groups based on a distorted and incorrect interpretation of the song in the states of Telangana, Maharashtra and similar complaints are likely from other non-Malayalam speaking states as well,” she said in her plea filed through advocate Pallavi Pratap.

She said the entire controversy has resulted in the filing of several criminal complaints, while the FIR arises from the lyrics of the song, which is a Mappila song or a traditional Muslim number from the Malabar region of Kerala.

“The song describes and praises the love between Prophet Mohamed and his first wife Khadeeja. It should be important to note that the song is originally from an old folk song from Kerala which was written in 1978 by PMA Jabbar and first sung by Thalassery Rafeeq, in the praise of the Prophet and his wife Beevi Khadija,” she said.

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पेरूमल मुरूगन, सोवेन्द्र हांसदा शेखर और अब ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी

निशाने पर ‘‘जूठन’

’ -सुभाष गाताडे

‘तुम्हारी महानता मेरे लिए स्याह अंधेरा है,,

मैं जानता हूं,/मेरा दर्द तुम्हारे लिए चींटी जैसा/ और तुम्हारा अपना दर्द पहाड़ जैसा

इसलिए, मेरे और तुम्हारे बीच/ एक फासला है/जिसे लम्बाई में नहीं/समय से नापा जाएगा। 

– ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिीक (जूता)

1997 में आयी वह आत्मकथा ‘‘जूठन’’ आते ही चर्चित हुई थी। 

उस वक्त एक सीमित दायरे में ही उसके लेखक ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी का नाम जाना जाता था। मगर हिन्दी जगत में किताब का जो रिस्पान्स था, जिस तरह अन्य भाषाओं में उसके अनुवाद होने लगे, उससे यह नाम दूर तक पहुंचने में अधिक वक्त नहीं लगा। यह अकारण नहीं था कि इक्कीसवीं सदी की पहली दहाई के मध्य में वह किताब अंग्रेजी में अनूदित होकर कनाडा तथा अन्य देशों के विश्वविद्यालयों के पाठयक्रम में शामिल की गयी थी। एक मोटे अनुमान के हिसाब से देश के तेरह अलग अलग विश्वविद्यालयों में – जिनमें कई केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय शामिल हैं – इन दिनों यह उपन्यास या उसके अंश पढ़ाए जा रहे हैं।

उपरोक्त आत्मकथा ‘‘जूठन’ का वह प्रसंग शायद ही कोई भूला होगा, जब इलाके के वर्चस्वशाली जाति से जुड़े किसी सुखदेव के घर हो रही अपनी बेटी की शादी के वक्त अपमानित की गयी उस नन्हे बालक (स्वयं ओमप्रकाशजी) एवं उसकी छोटी बहन माया की मां ‘उस रात गोया दुर्गा’ बनी थी और उसने त्यागी को ललकारा था और एक ‘शेरनी’ की तरह वहां से अपनी सन्तानों के साथ निकल गयी थी। कल्पना ही की जा सकती है कि जिला मुजफ्फरनगर के एक गांव में दृ जो 21 वीं सदी की दूसरी दहाई में भी वर्चस्वशाली जातियों की दबंगई और खाप पंचायतों की मनमानी के लिए कुख्यात है दृ आज से लगभग साठ साल पहले इस बग़ावत क्या निहितार्थ रहे होंगे। उनकी मां कभी उस शख्स के दरवाजे नहीं गयी।

इस नन्हे बालक के मन पर अपनी अनपढ़ मां की यह बग़ावत दृ जो वर्णसमाज के मानवद्रोही निज़ाम के तहत सफाई के पेशे में मुब्तिला थी और उस पेशे की वजह से ही लांछन का जीवन जीने के लिए अभिशप्त थी दृ गोया अंकित हो गयी, जिसने उसे एक तरह से तमाम बाधाओं को दूर करने का हौसला दिया।

विडम्बना ही है कि एक ऐसी रचना – जिसने उत्तर भारत में 90 की दशक में उठी दलित उभार की परिघटना में नया आयाम जोड़ा था और शेष समाज के संवेदनशील तबके को झकझोर कर रख दिया था तथा आत्मपरीक्षण के लिए प्रेरित किया था – उससे कुछ लोग ‘‘आहत’’ होते दिख रहे हैं और उन्होंने यह मांग की है कि स्नातक स्तर के पाठयक्रम से उसके अंशों को हटाया जाए। मांग की अगुआई हिमाचल प्रदेश में सत्ताधारी पार्टी से जुड़े छात्रा संगठन कर रहा है।

मालूम हो कि इस उपन्यास के अंग्रेजी अनुवाद के कुछ अंश हिमाचल युनिवर्सिटी के पाठयक्रम में कुछ साल से पढ़ाए जा रहे हैं। पश्चिम के कई देशों में पढ़ाए जा रहे इस उपन्यास से अचानक ‘‘आहत हो रही भावनाओं’’ का मामला यहां तक पहुंचा है कि पढ़ानेवाले अध्यापक इस सन्दर्भ में दलाई लामा से भी मिल चुके हैं, और छात्रों के एक हिस्से की मांग को लेकर राज्य के उच्च शिक्षा निदेशक ने यह भी कहा है कि मामले की जांच करवाई जाएगी और जरूरत पड़ने पर उसे हटा दिया जाएगा। /ी / / यह बात विचारणीय है कि पाठयक्रम की कथित विसंगतियों को लेकर दलाई लामा से मिलने की बात  क्या मायने रखती है ? मगर वह किस्सा फिर कभी !/

प्रश्न उठता है कि ‘बस्स! बहुत हो चुका’ जैसा कवितासंग्रह हो या ‘सलाम’ शीर्षक से आया कहानी संग्रह हो या ‘दलित साहित्य का सौंदर्यशास्त्र’ जैसी रचना हो या ‘सदियों का सन्ताप’ जैसी अन्य पुस्तक हो, साहित्य के इन तमाम रूपों के जरिए एक विशाल तबके के लिए अपमान-जिल्लत भरी जिन्दगी जीने की मजबूरी के खिलाफ अपनी जंग जारी रखनेवाले ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी की सबसे चर्चित रचना को अचानक निशाना बनाने की वजह क्या है ? और वह भी उनके इन्तकाल के लगभग पांच साल बाद, जबकि वह अपनी रचना की हिफाजत करने के लिए भी मौजूद नहीं हों।

ऐसी परिस्थिति आज नहीं तो कल विकसित होगी इसकी भविष्यवाणी गोया वाल्मिकीजी ने अपनी रचना में की थी ? अपनी कविता ‘‘उन्हें डर है’’ में उन्होंने साफ लिखा था:

उन्हें डर है

बंजड़ धरती का सीना चीर कर / अन्न उगा देने वाले सांवले खुरदरे हाथ

उतनी ही दक्षता से जुट जायेंगे /वर्जित क्षेत्रा में भी

जहाँ अभी तक लगा था उनके लिए / नो एंटरी का बोर्ड..

….उन्हें डर है

भविष्य के गर्भ से चीख.चीख कर / बाहर आती हजारों साल की वीभत्सता

जिसे रचा था उनके पुरखों ने भविष्य निधि की तरह /कहीं उन्हें ही न ले डूबे किसी अंधेरी खाई में

जहाँ से बाहर आने के तमाम रास्ते / स्वयं ही बंद कर आये थे

सुग्रीव की तरह

विडम्बना ही है देश के प्रबुद्ध जगत में भी इस मसले पर कोई सरगर्मी, कोई प्रतिक्रिया नहीं दिख रही है !

मुमकिन है कि पेरूमल मुरूगन या हांसदा सोवेन्द्र शेखर जैसे लेखकों पर – इलाके के वर्चस्वशाली समूहों के पड़ रहे दबावों को खिलाफ आवाज़ उठानेवाले प्रबुद्ध जनों तक यह ख़बर पहुंची नहीं है या उसकी गंभीरता से वाकीफ नहीं हो सके हैं।


‘जूठन’ को पाठयक्रम से बाहर कर दिए जाने की इस मांग को कैसे समझा जाए, यह मसला विचारणीय है।

क्या यह कहा जाना मुनासिब है कि समाज एवं साहित्यजगत पर हावी ऐसे लोग अभीभी उस सच्चाई से रूबरू नहीं होना चाहते कि भारत में जातिप्रथा सदियों से उपस्थित रही है, जिसने शुद्धता और छूआछूत के नाम पर समाज के बड़े हिस्से को बुनियादी मानव अधिकारों से भी वंचित रखा है और आधुनिकता के आगमन के बाद ही इस संरचना में पहली बार कुछ हरकत, बदलाव की गुंजाइश दिख रही है ?

अपनी चर्चित रचना ‘‘अछूत कौन और कैसे ?’’ जिसमें वह अस्प्रश्यता के जड़ तक पहुंचने की कोशिश करते हैं, डा अम्बेडकर ने इसी दोहरे रूख की पड़ताल की थी।

सनातन धर्मान्ध हिंदू के लिए यह बुद्धि से बाहर की बात है कि छुआछूत में कोई दोष है। उसके लिए यह सामान्य स्वाभाविक    बात है। वह इसके लिए किसी प्रकार के पश्चात्ताप और स्पष्टीकरण की मांग नहीं करता। आधुनिक हिंदू छुआछूत को कलंक तो समझता है लेकिन सबके सामने चर्चा करने से उसे लज्जा आती है। शायद इससे कि हिंदू सभ्यता विदेशियों के सामने बदनाम हो जाएगी कि इसमें दोषपूर्ण एवं कलंकित प्रणाली या संहिता है जिसकी साक्षी छूआछूत है।

– डा अम्बेडकर,  अछूत कौन और कैसे ?

विडम्बना ही है कि जाति प्रथा के महज उल्लेख से – उसके वर्णन से – भावनाएं आहत होने के मामले में हिमाचल प्रदेश के भद्रजन अकेले नहीं कहे जा सकते।

अभी कुछ समय पहले उधर मलेशिया में भारतीय मूल के निवासियों की गिरफ्तारी का मसला अचानक सूर्खियां बना था। बताया गया था कि ‘हिन्ड्राफ’ (Hindraf)    नामक संगठन के कार्यकर्ता इस बात से नाराज थे कि मलेशिया के स्कूलों में बच्चों के अध्ययन के लिए जो उपन्यास लगाया गया था, वह कथित तौर पर भारत की ‘छवि खराब’ करता है। आखिर उपरोक्त उपन्यास में ऐसी क्या बात लिखी गयी थी, जिससे वहां स्थित भारतवंशी मूल के लोग अपनी ‘मातृभूमि’ की बदनामी के बारे में चिन्तित हो उठे थेे। अगर हम बारीकी से देखें तो इस उपन्यास में एक ऐसे शख्स की कहानी थी जो तमिलनाडु से मलेशिया में किस्मत आजमाने आया है और वह यह देख कर हैरान होता है कि अपनी मातृभूमि पर उसका जिन जातीय अत्याचारों से साबिका पड़ता था, उसका नामोनिशान यहां नहीं है।

यह सवाल किसी ने नहीं उठाया कि अपने यहां जिसे परम्परा के नाम पर महिमामण्डित करने में हम संकोच नहीं करते हैं, उच्चनीचअनुक्रम पर टिकी इस प्रणाली को मिली दैवी स्वीकृति की बात करते हैं, आज भी आबादी के बड़े हिस्से के साथ (जानकारों के मुताबिक) 164 अलग अलग ढंग से छूआछूत बरतते हैं, वही बात अगर सरहद पार की किताब में उपन्यास में ही लिखी गयी तो वह उन्हें अपमान क्यों मालूम पड़ती है।

और मलेशिया में बसे आप्रवासी भारतीय अनोखे नहीं है।

अमेरिका की सिलिकान वैली -सैनफ्रान्सिस्को बे एरिया के दक्षिणी हिस्से में स्थित इस इलाके में दुनिया के सर्वाधिक बड़े टेक्नोलोजी कार्पोरेशन्स के दफ्तर हैं – में तो कई भारतवंशियों ने अपनी मेधा से काफी नाम कमाया है। मगर जब कैलिफोर्निया विश्वविद्यालय में पाठयक्रमों की पुनर्रचना होने लगी, तब हिन्दु धर्म के बारे में एक ऐसी आदर्शीकृत छवि किताबों में पेश की गयी, जिसका हकीकत से कोई वास्ता नहीं था। अगर इन किताबों को पढ़ कर कोई भारत आता तो उसके लिए न जाति अत्याचार कोई मायने रखता था, न स्त्रिायों के साथ दोयम व्यवहार कोई मायने रखता था। जाहिर है हिन्दु धर्म की ऐसी आदर्शीकृत छवि पेश करने में रूढिवादी किस्म की मानसिकता के लोगों का हाथ था, जिन्हें इसके वर्णनमात्रा से भारत की बदनामी होने का डर सता रहा था। साफ था इनमें से अधिकतर उंची कही जानेवाली जातियों में जनमे थे। अन्ततः वहां सक्रिय सेक्युलर हिन्दोस्तानियों को, अम्बेडकरवादी समूहों तथा अन्य मानवाधिकार समूहों के साथ मिल कर संघर्ष करना पड़ा और तभी पाठयक्रमों में उचित परिवर्तन मुमकिन हो सका। / यह दलील दी जा रही थी कि हिन्दुओं में जाति एवं पुरूषसत्ता का चित्राण किया जाएगा तो वह ‘हिन्दु बच्चों को हीन भावना’ से ग्रसित कर देगा और उनकी ‘प्रताडना’ का सबब बनेगा, लिहाजा उस उल्लेख को टाला जाए। उपरी तौर पर आकर्षक लगनेवाली यह दलील दरअसल सच्चाई पर परदा डालने जैसी है क्योंकि वही तर्क फिर नस्लवाद के सन्दर्भ में भी इस्तेमाल किया जा सकता है और किताबों से उसकी चर्चा को गायब किया जा सकता है।

अम्बेडकर के विचारों से प्रेरित ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी के लेखन को इस तरह विवादित बना देने को लेकर – जो एक तरह से समूचे ‘‘दलित लेखन’’ के प्रति वर्णवादी मानसिकता की नकारात्मक प्रतिक्रिया का सटीक उदाहरण है – एक क्षेपक के तौर पर हम अमेरिका में ब्लैक लिटरेचर अर्थात अश्वेत साहित्य के प्रति श्वेत प्रतिक्रिया की भी पड़ताल कर सकते हैं:

वैसे दलित लेखन को लेकर कथित वर्चस्वशाली जातियों की प्रतिक्रिया बरबस अश्वेत लेखन को लेकर श्वेत प्रतिक्रिया की याद ताज़ा करती है:

किसे गुणवत्तापूर्ण /श्वेत/साहित्य कहा जाए इसे लेकर उच्चनीचअनुक्रम/हाईरार्की की दुराग्रही अवधारणा और फिर उसी साहित्य में किन /श्वेत/ पात्रों को मानवीय समझा जाए और उनकी जिन्दगियों की नकारात्मक घटनाओं को लेकर एक विमर्श बना है। यह कोई बौद्धिक या आकलन का मुददा नहीं है ..; यह नस्लीय मुददा है …

…महान अश्वेत लेखक जेम्स बाल्डविन ने लिखा है कि किस तरह श्वेतजन अपने खुद के अस्तित्व को लेकर उन भ्रांतियों -भ्रमों / जिन्हें श्वेत वर्चस्व ने गढ़ा है/ से रूबरू होने से इन्कार करते हैं, जिनको वह निर्मित करते हैं तथा उसी पर जिन्दगी गुजार देते है ; किस तरह उन छदमों से परे अपने अस्तित्व की पड़ताल करना भी उनके लिए कठिन होता है ...



आखिर जब किताब कुछ साल से पढ़ायी जा रही थी तब भावनाओं के अचानक आहत होने की बात कहां से पैदा हुई।

क्या इसका ताल्लुक राज्य में हुए हालिया सत्ता परिवर्तन से जोड़ा जा सकता है।

साफ है कि जिस किस्म का सियासी समाजी माहौल बन रहा है, जहां मनु और उसके विचारों की हिमायत करने पर इन दिनों किसी को एतराज होना तो दूर, आप सम्मानित भी हो सकते हैं, उस प्रष्ठभूमि में डा अम्बेडकर के विचारों के रैडिकल अन्तर्य/अन्तर्वस्तु को लोगों तक पहुंचाती दिखती किताब – भले ही वह आत्मकथा हो – उस पर इन यथास्थितिवादियों की टेढ़ी निगाह जाना आश्चर्यजनक नहीं लगता।

फिलवक्त़ केन्द्र में तथा देश के कई राज्यों में सत्तासीन इस जमात के लोगों का चिन्तन तरह समूचे मुल्क को रूढिवाद और परम्परा के गर्त में ढकेल देना चाहता है, इसकी एक मिसाल दी जा सकती है। /ी–> / दिसम्बर माह की 10 तारीख को जयपुर में बाकायदा एक कार्यक्रम आयोजित किया गया था जिसका शीर्षक था ‘‘मनु प्रतिष्ठा समारोह’’ जिसमें संघ परिवार के अग्रणियों ने साझेदारी की थी। इसमें यह बात जोर देकर कही गयी थी मनु की छवि को इतिहासकारों ने विक्रत किया है। याद रहे कि जयपुर ही वह शहर है जहां मनु की मूर्ति की स्थापना भाजपा के तत्कालीन मुख्यमंत्राी भैरोंसिंह शेखावत के जमाने में उच्च अदालत में की गयी थी। यह किसी की चिन्ता का विषय उन दिनों नहीं बना था कि डा अम्बेडकर की मूर्ति अदालत के कहीं कोने में पड़ी है।

भले ही यह बात अब इतिहास की किताबों में दर्ज हो, मगर हमें नहीं भूलना चाहिए कि पचास-साठ के दशकों में उत्तर भारत में चंद्रिका प्रसाद जिज्ञासु, ललई सिंह यादव ‘‘पेरियार’’, रामस्वरूप वर्मा आदि कइयों ने अपने लेखन से जो अलख जगाए रखी, अपने सामाजिक सांस्क्रतिक प्रबोधन से उत्पीड़ित समुदाय को मुक्ति के फलसफे से अवगत कराया, भाग्यवाद के घटिया चिन्तन से तौबा करना सीखाया, उसी मुहिम ने तो बाद में दलित-उत्पीड़ित एसर्शन/दावेदारी की जमीन तैयार की।

पचास – साठ के दशकों से हालात काफी बदले हैं, मगर इसके बावजूद ऐसे विचारों की ताप समाप्त नहीं हुई है। वह नए नए नौजवानों को आमूलचूल बदलाव के फलसफे से रूबरू करा रही है।

ऐसे उथलपुथल भरे माहौल में  ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी की भारतीय समाज की तीखी आलोचना निहित स्वार्थी तत्वों को कैसे बरदाश्त हो सकती है, जो न केवल यथास्थिति बनाए रखना चाहते हैं बल्कि वर्णव्यवस्था से सदियों से उत्पीड़ित तबकों को धार्मिक अल्पसंख्यकों के खिलाफ खड़ा करके एक नए किस्म की पेशवाई को – ब्राहमणवादी हुकूमत को – कायम करना चाहते हैं।

इसे महज संयोग नहीं कहा जा सकता कि वर्ष 2014 में जब से मोदी की अगुआई में सरकार बनी है तबसे दलितों के उभार की कई घटनाएं सामने आयी हैं और दिलचस्प यह है कि हर आनेवाली घटना अधिक जनसमर्थन जुटा सकी है। दरअसल यह एहसास धीरे धीरे गहरा गया है कि मौजूदा हुकूमत न केवल सकारात्मक कार्रवाई वाले कार्यक्रमों /आरक्षण तथा अन्य तरीकों से उत्पीड़ितों को विशेष अवसर प्रदान करना/ पर आघात करना चाहती है बल्कि उसकी आर्थिक नीतियांें – तथा उसके सामाजिक आर्थिक एजेण्डा के खतरनाक संश्रय ने दलितों एवं अन्य हाशियाक्रत समूहों/तबकों की विशाल आबादी पर कहर बरपा किया है।

यह अधिकाधिक स्पष्ट होता जा रहा है कि हुकूमत में बैठे लोगों के लिए एक ऐसी दलित सियासत की दरकार है, जो उनके इशारों पर चले। वह भले ही अपने आप को डा अंबेडकर का सच्चा वारिस साबित करने की कवायद करते फिरें, लेकिन सच्चाई यही है कि उन्हें असली अंबेडकर नहीं बल्कि उनके साफसुथराक्रत /sanitised  / संस्करण की आवश्यकता है। वह वास्तविक अंबेडकर से तथा उनके रैडिकल विचारों से किस कदर डरते हैं यह गुजरात की पूर्वमुख्यमंत्राी आनंदीबेन पटेल के दिनों के उस निर्णय से समझा जा सकता है जिसने किसी विद्वान से सम्पर्क करके लिखवाये अंबेडकर चरित्रा की चार लाख प्रतियां कबाड़ में डाल दीं, वजह थी कि उस विद्वान ने किताब के अन्त में उन 22 प्रतिज्ञाओं को भी शामिल किया जो डा अंबेडकर ने 1956 में धर्मांतरण के वक्त़ अपने अनुयायियों के साथ ली थीं। /ी /

और शायद इसी एहसास ने जबरदस्त प्रतिक्रिया को जन्म दिया है। और अब यही संकेत मिल रहे हैं कि यह कारवां रूकनेवाला नहीं है।

चाहे चेन्नई आई आई टी में अंबेडकर पेरियार स्टडी सर्कल पर पाबंदी के खिलाफ चली कामयाब मुहिम हो ( या हैद्राबाद सेन्टल युनिवर्सिटी के मेधावी छात्रा एवं अंबेडकर स्टुडेंट एसोसिएशन के कार्यकर्ता रोहिथ वेमुल्ला की ‘सांस्थानिक हत्या’ के खिलाफ देश भर में उठा छात्रा युवा आन्दोलन हो  ( या महाराष्ट में सत्तासीन भाजपा सरकार द्वारा अंबेडकर भवन को गिराये जाने के खिलाफ हुए जबरदस्त प्रदर्शन हों या इन्कलाबी वाम के संगठनों की पहल पर पंजाब में दलितों द्वारा हाथ में ली गयी ‘जमीन प्राप्ति आन्दोलन’ हो – जहां जगह जगह दलित अपने जमीन के छोटे छोटे टुकड़ों को लेकर सामूहिक खेती के प्रयोग भी करते दिखे हैं, या उना के बहाने चली जबरदस्त हलचल हो जब यह नारा उठा था कि ‘‘गाय की पूंछ तुम रखो, हमें हमारी जमीन दो।’

भीमा कोरेगांव ‘‘शौर्य स्म्रति दिवस’’ के हुए विराट आयोजन और उसमें आम जनसाधारण की व्यापक सहभागिता, जिसमें आज के ‘‘पेशवाओं’’ को शिकस्त देने की उठी आवाज़ तथा उसकी प्रतिक्रिया में रूढिवादी ताकतों का संगठित हिंसाचार, हिन्दुत्ववादी संगठनों की बदहवासी भरी हरकतें इसी बात की ताज़ी मिसाल है।

इस समूची प्रष्ठभूमि में यह अकारण नहीं कि ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी की रचना को ‘‘आहत भावनाओं’’ की दुहाई देते हुए वह दफना देना चाहते हैं, नफरत पर टिके अपने निज़ाम के लिए कुछ और पलों की गारंटी करना चाहते हैं।

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MIFF: Selection jury protests exclusion of Film on Kashmir #Censorship

Namrata Joshi MUMBAI,

Directors request Information and Broadcasting Ministry to reconsider decision to deny exemption certificate
At the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2017, the members of the Indian Panorama selection jury took on the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for the exclusion of two films, Nude and S Durga , from the final line-up.

Now it is the turn of the selection committee members of the national competition section at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF 2018) for documentaries, shorts and animation to register their protest against the exclusion of In the Shade of the Fallen Chinar directed by Fazil N.C. and Shawn Sebastian.

The film features in the festival’s brochure and was scheduled for public screening on January 29, 2018, but wasn’t eventually shown.

A joint statement signed by nine of the 12 members stated: “We stand in solidarity with the filmmakers and strongly condemn this act of censorship.” The signatories include filmmakers Anupama Srinivasan, Priyanka Chhabra, Gautam Sonti, Amudhan R.P., Sudarshan Juyal, Rani Day Burra, Sandhya Kumar, Yapangnaro Longkumer and film writer and critic Shoma Chatterjee.

No public screening

When contacted, festival director Manish Desai said the 16-minute short documentary continues to officially be a part of the competition but cannot be screened publicly under the provisions stipulated in the Cinematograph Act.

For a public screening it has to have either a censor certificate or an exemption from the Ministry. “If certified we are open to screening it any time till the closing ceremony,” said Mr. Desai.

The film has been denied exemption for MIFF by the Ministry but reportedly without giving any clear reason.

The documentary was also denied exemption for International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) last year. The film has since been uploaded on YouTube and has over 1 lakh views.

On Friday, a protest was held outside the Films Division building. The MIFF director has forwarded three appeals — from the selection committee, the film directors and the delegates — to the Ministry requesting reconsideration, along with his own letter of appeal.

Soothing touch

According to selection committee member, Anupama Srinivasan, the film is all about a space for arts for the young people of the Valley. It pitches the soothing touch of art against the turmoil. “On what basis are they stopping its screening?” wondered Ms. Srinivasan, conjecturing that it could be because of the “Azaadi” chants at the beginning of the film.

The biennial festival, organised by the Films Division of the I&B Ministry, kicked off on January 28 and will come to a close on Saturday.

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Karni Sena and Sanjay Leela Bhansali – Both United in misogyny #Vaw

For both Karni Sena and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, it seems the woman is either to be protected or possessed

padmaavat, karni sena, sanjay leela bhansali, deepika padukone, misogyny, rajput protest, swara bhaskar, bjp, jauhar, indian expressFor both Karni Sena and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, it seems the woman is either to be protected or possessed

I have just watched Padmaavat and cannot stop myself from penning some thoughts on the film. Let me begin with a strong rider that I am deeply disgusted and appalled by the vandalism and opposition of the Karni Sena to the film, and the complicity of BJP-ruled state governments. This is, indeed, a new low in the attack on the freedom of expression. But I want to steer the discussion to another aspect of the film, which has received relatively less attention. The film profoundly troubled me in terms of the gender, caste and religious identities that it upholds and celebrates.

By the end of it, I was squirming in my seat, and was also angry. I felt that there appears to be a deep affinity between the perspectives of the Karni Sena and Sanjay Leela Bhansali in terms of their representations of Rajput honour and women’s chastity. So the opposition to the film has nothing to do with hurt sentiments or “objectionable” portrayal of Padmavati, as per dominant Rajput understandings, and everything to do with political alignments. But let me come to a discussion of the film itself, which I think needs to be critiqued for completely different reasons, without imposing any censorship on it.


The film is, first and foremost, a valorisation of jauhar, a deeply retrogressive and barbaric custom, which needs to be trenchantly critiqued. It depicts a grotesque act through markers of beauty and aesthetics, eulogising jauhar as a site of Rajput glorification. The burning alive of hundreds of women, including pregnant women, all dressed in red, and thus frontally declaring their married status — the climax of the film on which Bhansali spends more than 15 minutes — far from representing a tragedy, a barbaric act and deep violence carried over women’s bodies, acquires an exalted stature, a celebration of Rajput rulers’ tradition and heritage. Before jauhar, Padmavati/Deepika Padukone is seen as taking permission from her husband Ratan Sen/Shahid Kapoor to commit it, stating that she cannot take her life without her husband’s endorsement, who in turn willingly agrees to it. Though the film carries a rider in the beginning that it does not support sati, there is a clear validation of jauhar, a deification of women, and a privileging of Brahmanical scriptures. Jauhar here is not only allowable, but positively laudable.

 The ideological and emotional coercion of women through a series of social, cultural and religious sanctions and ideals that glorify immolation as “voluntary”, carried out in the name of devotion, chastity and sacrifice, is actually an act of profound violence against women. The “true” wives, it is underlined in the film, have a moral right to end their lives in this fashion, and it signifies not “victimhood” but their “agency”. The woman’s worth is subsumed into that of her husband and her community. Jauhar is not the only marker of violence against women in the film. Padmavati is categorically told that she cannot interfere in political matters of the state by her husband.

Second, the film upholds the “pativrata dharma” as the ultimate expression of a “true” Rajput woman, personified in the figure of Padmavati. She is the perfect model of Hindu upper-caste Kshatriya womanhood. A Rajput coded Mewar admires Padmavati for her fidelity and femininity, which is represented as emblematic of their tradition. Padmavati is also repeatedly shown as hiding herself from “outside” men through purdah, as lajja is the biggest adornment of the Rajput woman.


Third, Padmavati’s moral disciplining is critically justified in the film through a language of protection. Rajput muscular pride rests on a gendered binary where Padmavati is metamorphosed into a symbol of sacredness. In a scene in the film, Alauddin Khilji/Ranveer Singh expresses a desire in front of Rana Ratan Sen (and other Rajput men) to meet other members of his family, including Padmavati. All Rajput swords are immediately out. Padmavati thus symbolises the exclusive preserve of Ratan Sen, and safeguarding her virtue is the sole prerogative of Rajput men. She is to be protected or possessed. She is inherently constructed as a marker of Rajput cultural identity and honour. She is the harbinger and spiritual essence of Mewar, cherished as most private and “purest”. In the name of “protecting” her, power is mapped over her body by denying her movement. There actually functions a grim coercive and disciplinary power behind avowals of love and protection.

Fourth, Padmavati is staged as a symbol of honour and prestige of all Rajput men of Mewar. Misplaced invocations of Rajput masculinity and pride underline a conservative mindset that privileges hegemonic Rajput patriarchies. This can aid the reassertion of a previously dominant Rajput elite whose political and social authority has been steadily undermined by the new political groupings and structures of power in independent India. The repeated calls for a masculinised Rajput male prowess in the film, and the luminous honour of the Rajputs, is predicated on the organisation of the darker social forces of Alauddin Khilji.


This brings me to my final point. The film strengthens the stereotypical constructions of the evil, licentious and sexually ferocious Muslim male, epitomised in Alauddin Khilji, lusting after the “pure” body of an upper-caste Hindu woman. There are no nuances or shades here. It is a stark black and white portrayal of the evil Muslim male and the ideal Hindu woman, underwriting an exclusivist grammar of difference. As a dangerously masculine and bestial barbarian, with long hair, kohl-marked eyes and deep cuts on his face, Alauddin Khilji/Ranveer Singh symbolises a spectacle of high sexual appetite and lecherous behaviour. The Hindutva politics of food is also implicitly played out in a scene in which Alauddin is depicted as devouring a huge meal filled with non-vegetarian food and hordes of red meat. The lust of Alauddin for Padmavati’s body symbolically intersects here with “grotesque” food, which contributes in the making of this “predatory” and “libidinous beast”, who is filled with dark thoughts, violence and hyper-sexuality.


It may be argued that the film is a representation of Jayasi’s Padmaavat, and remains true to it. But Bhansali takes many creative liberties in the film. Many other period, mythical and historical films — from Mughal-e-Azam to Jodhaa Akbar — have given space to multiple voices and perspectives. There can be many lives of the queen and diverse narratives. However, Bhansali has chosen to adopt a singular, unilinear narrative, with no complexities or nuances.

To conclude, the film upholds an upper caste, exclusivist and hegemonic Rajput perspective and nurtures a Hindu nationalist historiography that can provide fodder to the politicised Hindu nationalism of present-day India. It defines its cultural ethos largely in terms of patriarchal norms and Rajput identities, which is an impediment to values of autonomy and freedom, and the quest for gender justice.

United in misogyny

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Open letter to PM Modi – Do you really want to stop the violence?

Padmaavat protests are only a representation of the wider malice perpetuated under your rule in the society.

Respected Modiji,

This letter might take you by surprise. But since you believe only in one-sided conversations – like your Mann Ki Baat – and giving scripted interviews to select TV channels, I have no other option.

Modiji, as you enjoyed the snowy winters in Davos, the law and order situation back home had collapsed. I am sure you were aware of it. Over the release of Padmaavat, the Karni Sena first targeted your home state of Gujarat. The violence then spilled over into Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In Gurgaon, the outfit crossed all limits and attacked a school bus. Thankfully, the kids survived.

All of these states are ruled by your party and I find it unbelievable, Modiji, that the chief ministers of the concerned states could not control these terrorists. On the contrary, members of your party are egging on the Karni Sena and you have been a mute spectator to it. Your supporters might point out that Karni Sena leader, who is also a BJP media coordinator, Suraj Pal Amu, has been put in house arrest. But it reminds of the time when Pakistan had put Hafiz Saeed in house arrest last year. Instead of such laughable tokenism, remind yourself of the overreaction of your state government in Uttar Pradesh to the Bhim Sena and juxtapose the “action” against Amu.

Modiji, it begs the question whether you indeed intend to stop the violence. Why can’t you show the same resolve you showed while rightly standing behind Taslima Nasrin? Or are you and the Congress, by remaining in the “pushpak” mode, trying to electorally capitalise on the polarisation?

ro_012718040237.jpgImage: PTI photo

You may ask, Modiji, that if the Congress too is guilty of silence, why are you being solely targeted. After all, right from the time of the Emergency to banning Salman Rushdie or James Lane’s books, the Congress faltered badly. But that is exactly why you are in power.

Even today, leaders like Digvijaya Singh are being apologists of the Karni Sena. But then he is not the prime minister, Modji, you are. Your silence has merely validated their grotesque actions. And the peace-loving citizens of the country would demand an explanation. Which parent would remain quiet after his/her child is subjected to physical assault over a film? Also, the developments back home have only ruined your speech in Davos. Who would want to invest in India when a mob can successfully hold state after state to ransom over a movie?

Modiji, Padmaavat protests are only a representation of the wider malice perpetuated under your rule in the society. The larger question is of the Constitution. The film could be a snooze fest, but freedom of expression gives one the right to be a bad filmmaker. If the film has a green signal from the CBFC and the Supreme Court, it is your duty to ensure its smooth release. Your state chief ministers did not uphold the Constitution. And your silence means you are okay with it. If you won’t stand by the Constitution, who are we supposed to look up to?   Do you remember the time when you stepped into Parliament for the first time as prime minister? You had bowed down and kissed the steps to show your respect for the “temple of democracy”. It was indeed a moving gesture. But now I wonder if it was just another act played to the gallery. The havoc caused by the Karni Sena is a big blot on your regime. However, Modiji, it isn’t the first one. After you came to power, the first casualty was Mohsin Sheikh in Pune. Then Mohammad Akhlaq, Junaid… How many names should I recollect?

The “gun” then turned towards the Dalits. Your saffron goons did not leave a single chance to persecute the most-deprived section of the society. Student activists were labelled seditious, Rohith Vemula had to commit suicide even as innocent workers were flogged in Una.

How am I supposed to have faith in your belief in the Constitution? Or is it a planned move towards a Hindu Rashtra? Time has come for you to answer this question because you came to power saying “sabka saath, sabka vikas”. I genuinely believe, Modiji, that you could have stopped the disruption if you wanted to. Just like the British government protected Rushdie, or Ashok Chavan ensured a smooth release of My Name Is Khan, you had the chance to reassure the artists and citizens of India.

It is a matter of will. And you have failed the test of will till date. It is still not late, Modiji. But you don’t have a lot of time left to undo what you have already unleashed. We just celebrated our 69th Republic Day. I hope you have sworn by the Constitution with all your heart. Else, history won’t be kind to you.

A concerned citizen with faith in the Constitution

Nikhil Wagle

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Inciting Mutiny: Are Governments Complicit? #PadmavatRow

by-  Retd Major General S.G.Vombatkere

 Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s blockbuster movie Padmavati raised the hackles of the Rajput community across several states, who vandalised the film sets and threatened further violence on the grounds that it distorted the history of Rajput Rani Padmini, and hurt their sentiments.

Various persons threatened specific targetted violence like Mahipal Singh Makrana allegedly threatening to cut off Deepika Padukone’s nose if Padmavati was released, and Abhishek Som publicly announcing a reward of Rs 5 crore to the person who beheads Bhansali and Padukone.

Padmavati was sent to CBFC for certification and clearance. CBFC recommended change of title to Padmaavat – the name of Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s ballad written in 1540, which reportedly triggered Bhansali’s film – along with five modifications, and cleared its release.

The Shree Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS) and other Rajput outfits in several states were still adamant that Padmaavat should not be released, and publicly threatened violence at the movie halls which may attempt to screen it. Even CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi was threatened for clearing the film. The matter reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CBFC clearance was sufficient and ruled that the film should be released.

The open threats of violence against Padmavati (and later Padmaavat) did not receive even a mild rebuke from the state governments or the central government. Rather, the state governments of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (and also Haryana and Gujarat) banned the movie in their states, thereby kneeling before the violent right-wing elements.

Even after the order of the Supreme Court that lifted the ban imposed by four states on the release of Padmaavat, SRKS and other outfits have reiterated their stand of not allowing its release. Following a petition by the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh seeking to stall its release citing insurmountable law and order problems, the Supreme Court directed that the states must comply with their earlier order allowing the release, and deal with any law and order problems. Perhaps the state governments plan to call the army to handle the law and order situations when they arise.

Most recently, Shree Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS) leader Mahipal Singh Makrana is reported to have called on all Kshatriya soldiers in the Indian Army, asking them to boycott their mess food for a day to protest against the release of Padmaavat. He also reportedly asked the soldiers to “lay down their arms for a day” if the government does not listen to their demands. [“Boycott mess food to protest ‘Padmaavat‘ release, Karni asks Kshatriya jawans”; The Times of India, Jaipur; 21 January 2018;
>]. It is clear that Makrana has little idea about the army and the manner in which it deals with “caste” and religion. The Indian Army is the national icon that it is, precisely because, in its day-to-day functioning whether on Siachen glacier, in a counter-insurgency (CI) role, or in a “peace” station, it is not politicised into caste and religion. In every army unit and headquarters, there are places of worship of more than one religion or faith, and all unit personnel, regardless of their military rank or individual religious conviction, participate in all cultural and religious functions at these regimental religious institutions. Also, all soldiers of all faiths and “castes” dine together, live in the same premises, train together, fight shoulder-to-shoulder in CI operations or any other life-threatening combat situations, and face bullets, grenades and bombs together.

In the Army (as also in the Navy and Air Force), a soldier refusing food as a mark of protest renders him liable to punishment under Army Act, 1950. Perhaps even more serious, is a soldier laying down his weapon in a mark of protest. If more than one soldier protests in these ways, it would amount to mutiny, a very serious offence for soldiers. Clearly Makrana is unaware of how the fighting forces function. Indeed, it is worth considering how a Rajput soldier of the times of Rani Padmini would have been treated if he put down his sword or lance as a mark of protest.

Whatever be the validity or otherwise of Makrana’s and other protestors’ arguments, the Supreme Court has ruled that Padmaavat will be screened. But what remains unaddressed is Makrana’s call to “Rajput soldiers” of the Indian Army to protest against screening of Padmaavat, by refusing food and laying down their weapons, even if only for a day.

Whether Makrana knows it or not, his statements are clear attempts to incite soldiers and seduce them from performing their duty. This is very dangerous to leave unpunished, as it can snowball to others inciting soldiers for whatever narrow partisan reason. Section 131 of the Indian Penal Code concerns “abetting mutiny by a soldier, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his allegiance or his duty”. It is punishable with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

It is clear that no Indian soldier, “Rajput” or not, will respond to Makrana’s call. On the other hand, they, along with their Commanding Officers, will surely treat it with the contempt it deserves. But even if Makrana is ignorant of IPC Section 131, he has laid himself open to prosecution under that Section.

The central and state governments (e.g., Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh) which have seen such open threats concerning the film Padmavati or the CBFC-cleared film Padmaavat, need to file FIRs against those who have publicly threatened violence and disturbance of public order, instilling fear among the general public to exercise their right to view the film of their choice. More specifically, Makrana inciting soldiers of the Indian Army is a cognizable offence under IPC Section 131.

Failure to take cognizance will send the message that governments are weak-kneed and incapable of governance, or that they implicitly support the right-wing protestors against Padmaavat. It is very difficult to believe that governments are weak-kneed, since there has been no hestitation in various state governments filing cases of sedition and of “waging war against the state” against protestors in other circumstances. Very sadly, one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that elected governments are taking the side of a vociferous and violent minority of wrong-doers, and neglecting their Constitutional duty towards the silent majority. This is utter failure of governments in upholding the Constitution and performing their sworn Constitutional duties.

As a parting shot, one can well imagine what would happen if Indian soldiers (including sailors and airmen) get politicized and thereby justify Pakistan’s long-held erroneous view that India is a Hindu state with a “Hindu army”.

(Major General S.G.Vombatkere is retired from the Indian Army)

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