Sunday, January 25, 2015

I am pissed off that Modi's RSS goons killed a Tamil author!

I was in India when the editor/publisher of Ananda Vikatan died.  He was my father's age and belonged to an era that seems ancient whenever I visit India.  An era when Tamil literature was alive, and rich, and entertained and educated the youth and the old alike.

The magazine devoted an issue to the editor's demise.  One contributor was the author Jayakanthan, who reminisced about how the editor boldly published Jayakanthan's stories, even though they were considered troublesome to the establishment.  Jayakanthan went on to write quite a bit, grew in stature, and has been recognized with awards galore.

That era seems even more ancient than ancient history when I read about the recent developments in the land that was once home to me, whose literature and language will always be a part of who I am. Even what I wear sometimes!  What happened for me to lament like this?
"Author Perumal Murugan has died"
The author was the latest victim of the provincial, parochial, ill-informed, goons, also known as as the Hindu right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who are making the best use of the opportunity now that one of their favorite and well-known is India's prime minister.

Ok, the RSS didn't kill the person.  The person lives:
"Author Perumal Murugan has died," the Tamil writer and professor posted on Monday. "He is no god, so he is not going to resurrect himself. Nor does he believe in reincarnation. From now on, Perumal Murugan will survive merely as the teacher he has been."
Why kill the author?  For a book he wrote. Not now, but back in 2010!
"Madhorubagan" is set about a century ago near the author's native town of Tiruchengode in southern India. In the book, a childless couple from the land-owning Gounder caste contemplate participating in a local temple festival ritual - during which a childless woman has sex with a man other than her husband in order to conceive a child.
Last month, unexpectedly, local groups led protests about the book - they said the "fictitious" extramarital sex ritual at the centre of the plot insulted the town, its temple and its women. Copies of the novel were burnt, residents shut down shops, and a petition sought the arrest of the author.
Yep, these goons conveniently forget that love and sex, and god, have been a wonderful tradition in the rich literature and arts in Tamil and throughout India.  But then when were goons ever seriously interested in knowledge!

The author is no bloke. Not any pretentious professor like this blogger. No, ma'am:
Perumal Murugan has been a professor of Tamil for the past 17 years, during which time he has developed considerable expertise in three different areas: building a lexicon of words, idioms and phrases special to Kongunadu; researching Kongu folklore, especially the ballads on Annamar Sami, a pair of folk deities; and publishing authoritative editions of classical Tamil texts. Murugan’s output in these areas over the past decade has been substantial. 
His knowledge led him to something that absolutely fascinated him:
It was his continuing interest in Kongu folklore that prompted him to apply for and obtain a grant from the India Foundation of the Arts, Bangalore, to undertake research on folklore surrounding the temple town of Thiruchengodu, a town he knew very well from his childhood but, in another sense, did not know at all.
There are many idols on the Thiruchengodu hill, each one capable of giving a specific boon. One of them is the Ardhanareeswarar, an idol of Shiva who has given the left part of his body to his consort, Parvathi. It is said that this is the only place where Shiva is sacralised in this mythical form. Murugan was intrigued on encountering several men in the region past the age of 50 who were called Ardhanari (Half-woman) or Sami Pillai (God-given child). On digging further he found out that till as recently as 50 years ago, on a particular evening of the annual chariot festival in the temple of Ardhanareeswara, childless women would come alone to the area alive with festival revelries. Each woman was free to couple with a male stranger of her choice, who was considered an incarnation of god. If the woman got pregnant, the child was considered a gift from god and accepted as such by the family, including her husband.
He then worked this into his fictional work. All done. That was in 2010.

In 2014, the RSS darling, Modi, was elected India's prime minister.  Now, the goons got bolder.  Which is why it has taken the idiots this long to go after Perumal Murugan and kill the author--ironically, after the English translation of the novel came out!

The NY Times expresses worries over the trend of silencing authors.  But, you think President Obama will bother to pressure his new friend, Prime Goon Modi, about such issues?  Heck no. After all, the attraction is all because Modi talks the business language and money talks, while everything else takes a walk!  As Shikha Dalmia writes:
Modi will use Obama's visit as the West's vote of confidence in himself, and pooh-pooh growing domestic alarm over his creeping Hindutva agenda.
Yep! :(
Obama can't ignore the political forces he'll be aiding and abetting in India.
India is a young democracy whose commitment to religious liberty is still fragile. On its Republic Day, President Obama should do nothing to undermine it.
Like Obama cares about any of these!

I did something that I did once before when the RSS/Hindutva assholes went after a book and its author.
I have bought myself a copy of Perumal Murugan's novel.


Ramesh said...

Just pause and consider that this post is maybe, just maybe, a tad over the top !

What a song ........

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, one of the awesomest of awesome songs ever from the Tamil movies ...

The content is not at all over the top ... Because this is not the first time in India. Authors and artists are increasingly feeling the pressure. And the prime minister has not publicly said a word defending the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion, and has not publicly said anything to rein in the Hindutva mob. Modi, in fact, engages, in what in the US we would call as "dog whistle" politics--coded language that means one thing to the world, when it is expertly coded to his people.

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