Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Mark of the Taliban: Editorial in The Hindu

The act of a gang that cut off the hand of a college teacher, by wielding an axe on a thoroughfare in Kerala in broad daylight, had Talibanism writ all over it. The State has been noted historically for the peaceful co-existence of different faiths and beliefs. This act of barbarism, however, points to the rise of blood-thirst driven by religious fundamentalism that certain fringe elements may be seeking to impose on the State. That it was a planned operation carried out with brutal intent adds to the shock. Without reference to the nature of the alleged provocation behind the act, what has happened is a challenge to civilised society and the rule of law. After all, the management of the college concerned had suspended the teacher for an inappropriate reference to the Prophet that appeared in an examination question paper and apologised for the aberration. The law has been taking its course and a criminal case against the teacher was being pursued. What the criminal fanatics have managed to do is to put on the defensive those who support the secular-democratic cause, and give a handle to majoritarian intolerance. The culprits need to be apprehended and prosecuted immediately.
If there is a silver lining here, it is that every political party in Kerala, organisations across the country representing both the religions concerned, and democratically minded sections of society have been prompt in condemning Sunday's savagery. Hearteningly, several Muslim youth organisations came forward to offer blood to the victim as he lay fighting for life in a Kochi hospital. To its credit, the State government has acted swiftly and decisively at every stage — a fact acknowledged amply during the course of a discussion in the State Assembly. The House condemned the incident in one voice. Most important, the atrocity did not trigger any communal backlash. But there is a larger lesson here. Freedom of expression has increasingly come under attack from religious fanatics in democratic and secular India and it is the duty of society and the political system to intervene more effectively to defend those who are targeted even if they express unpopular views. At the same time, those who work in academia and those who value intellectual freedom and creativity must be sensitive to the political-social contexts, which are quite often fragile if not volatile. All sections must unite to ensure that the heart-rending tragedy of a teacher making a misjudgment and ending up losing his hand to an act of Talibanesque savagery is never repeated.


Abhilash said...

Let me add a bit of cynicism to your blog posts :-). I am just trying to understand your views.
So, Mr. Cheeran, had this been an attack on a Hindu person, would you be this outraged?

johncheeran said...

Your cynicism is welcome. Is that my name that take the sting out of my views? Whoever the victim, Christian, Muslim or Hindu, any violence indulged in the name of God is reprehensible. Trawl through my blog, you will find instances of Christian establishment too coming under criticism. In India, especially in Kerala, no one wants to comment or react when Islamic fundamentalism rears its ugly head, afraid that you will miss out on Gulf Biryani. It is easy to rail against RSS. Not so against PDP, ISS, NDF, Jamaat Islami, etc. I cannot easily recall instances of Christian fundamentalists or thugs going on a rampage in Kerala or other parts of India, cutting off their rivals limbs or burning them alive. If they have done so, there is no doubt, such acts need to be condemned and those who have indulged in such acts should be hunted down and hanged. May be Christians are absolute sissies when it comes to wielding machetes and axes...That, however, is not the point here.
When you harp on the theme that others are against you, (which is the Muslim refrain in India despite Mohammad Azharuddin and MAK Pataudi leading Indian cricket teams in the past and at a given point almost four Muslims were part of the playing XI in recent times) the system and the establishment are biased against the minority communities and wildly react to perceived slights to religious icons, saints and prophets, with utter regard for the rule of law, I'm sure everyone with a backbone should raise his and her voice in protest.
Again, I understand that many have paused to read the said post in my blog, but no one except you thought it fit to react. I don't expect others to swallow my views but how would you justify a dastardly deed such as that happened to Professor Joseph? That too for a perceived insult, taking off from the writing of a Muslim writer?
When MF Husain drew Saraswati did Bajrang Dal chop off his wrist? When PM Antony staged the play Christhuvinte Aram Thiru Murivu in the 1980s, was he manhandled or his limbs were chopped off? And who killed Chekanur Maulavi?
Let's look at things for their own sake. I don't care much about religion. Be whatever you want. Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Christian, or Buddhist...But don't expect and force others to dance to the luny, perverted logic of theocracy.

Abhilash said...

Gotcha Mr. Cheeran.
I asked the question because the normally vociferous 'secular' brigade is silent on this issue. All the mainstream media have relegated the news to a small item. The print and electronic media were all over the MF Hussain issue, the pink chaddi campaign etc. But they are nowhere to be seen when this issue was raised. Some people who claim to be secular and liberal are conspicuously absent in this debate. Wonder whether they are afraid to oppose the muslim extremists or they are not really secular as they claim to be. I read a article by Vir Sanghvi ( in which he admits that the media turns a blind eye to muslim extremism. That is not new information. Everyone knows that.

The (online) voices I hear against this incident are mostly people which blindly support the Hindu cause, hardcore christian blogs and (most importantly) the really secular blogs. So I was trying to place you in one of those categories. As bad as it looks, I tried to guess that using your name. Probably not a nice thing to do.

In any case, I am happy to hear that you are not a hardline person supporting anything that the church does. I have not read your blog posts apart from a few cricket posts. So I have missed the ones you wrote against christian establishment. You don't have to prove your secularism by writing against your own religion, but the willingness to write if you believe they are wrong is appreciated. Unfortunately, this is where the secularism in India turn ugly. If Islam says that they are above all accountability, then we have a problem, a really huge problem.

John Cheeran at Blogged