The Islamic fundamentalists are at it again! Taslima Nasreen, in Hyderabad to release the Telugu version of her work, Shodh (Revenge), was attacked by legislators of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and a mob led by them. According to The Hindu:
[Taslima] looked in disbelief as they hurled abuses against her. Demanding to know who had mustered the guts to invite her to Hyderabad, they wanted Ms. Nasrin to be handed over to them.
Without further warning, they began throwing books, bouquets, chairs, and whatever they could lay their hands on at her. Some persons in the mob almost got hold of her but Narisetti Innaiah, rationalist and chairman of the Center for Inquiry, who was her host, shielded her. He was injured in his face. A couple of journalists who went to their rescue also sustained injuries in the scuffle.
The Hindu reports Akbaruddin Owaisi, MIM leader in the Andhra Pradesh assembly, as saying:
There is a fatwa against her and the fatwa is one and all for the entire Muslim world, whether it is Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasrin … If Taslima makes another visit to Hyderabad, yes we will try to implement the fatwa on her.
The Deccan Herald quotes him as saying:
Muslims are proud of what our legislators and workers have done, because we can never tolerate any insult to Prophet Mohammed.
The Indian Express quotes MIM president Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi as saying:
When the Bangladesh government has shunted Taslima out of the country, why is the Indian government protecting her? She brought disrespect to Islam and we taught her a lesson.
This guy seems to be aflicted with a rather severe case of foot in mouth, for the Deccan Herald quotes him as saying:
Our partymen deserved a pat on their back for what they have done. I feel we should have done more.
As the Times of India has noted, MIM’s thuggery is punishable under several sections of the Indian Penal Code. Ironically, while the MIM MLAs — Syed Ahmed Pasha Qadri, Afsar Khan and Moazzam Khan — were let out on bail, Taslima now faces a case of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
NDTV suggests that the attack on Taslima was intended to unite the Muslim community behind MIM.
The attack on Taslima serves twin purposes, one to mobilise the muslim vote in its favour in the municipal elections next year and two, to neutralize the CPM’s efforts to make inroads into its bastion, the old city area.
If the MIM wants to defend the Muslim community, how about taking on the Sangh Parivar? No, that would require courage. Besides, as Javed Akhtar has noted:
These (the attackers) are the same people who criticise Bajrang Dal and VHP. What is the difference between them and the Hindu fundamentalist organisations.
[While the Hindu fundamentalists and their Islamic counterparts might be equally repugnant, their ability and propensity to violence can hardly be compared. See, for instance, The Asymmetries of Communalism]
As Akhtar further notes: Fundamentalists are getting bolder and bolder as they can get away with almost anything. That is the problem. This is indeed a problem, for the state often colludes with the local religious elite to silence iconoclastic opinions. But that’s for later.
This from The Hindu:
A group of students blackened the face of an English professor at the J S M College here for allegedly insulting Maratha warrior Shivaji and his mother Jijabai during a lecture, police said today.
The professor has apologised for the remarks, they said.
One of the students had protested against the remarks immediately and was not allowed to sit in the class for three days, police added.
Perhaps other factors were at work here, and the punished student simply played up the alleged insult of Shivaji as an excuse to get back at his professor — the feudal mindset of most teachers in India forecloses rational and legitimate expressions of disagreements by students — but nothing justifies such an act. This incident reminds one of the Shambaji Brigade’s vandalisation of the Bhandarkar Institute in Pune. As Frontline reported:
A 150-strong mob protesting against the institute’s alleged involvement in maligning the name of the Maratha king Shivaji barged into its premises, ransacked the library, destroyed thousands of rare books, ancient manuscripts, old photographs and priceless artefacts, and took away some invaluable historical texts … The attackers were reacting to a derogatory remark on Shivaji’s parentage, made by the American author James Laine in his book Shivaji: A Hindu King in an Islamic Kingdom. In a biographical account on the Maratha warrior, Laine writes that the repressed awareness that Shivaji had an absentee father is also revealed by the fact that Maharashtrians tell jokes naughtily suggesting that his guardian Dadoji Konddev was his biological father…
Shiv Sena activists, quick to react to any disparaging remark on Shivaji, stormed into the BORI building and blackened the face of Bahulkar.
However, as noted by Asghar Ali Engineer:
It is quite significant to note that the alleged remarks against Shivaji and his mother were made by James Laine, not by anyone associated with the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute and yet this Institute was ransacked. If the leaders of the Sambhaji Brigade really wanted to show their love for Shivaji they should have demanded ban on the books instead of ransacking of the famous Institute. But they chose to vandalise Bhandarkar Institute instead.
Thus the purpose was not so much as to protest against Bhandarkar Institute but to attack the institute considered to be the storehouse of Brahminical knowledge and controlled by the Brahmins. And that is why they raised the slogan yeh to ek jhanki hai, abhi Shaniwarwada baqi hai i.e. it is just the beginning and Shaniwarwada is yet to be attacked. The attack was not so much on the books as on the Brahminism and Brahminical culture.
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the continued targeting of Professor Shivji Panikkar of Maharaja Sayajirao University, and his allies. The Sangh Parivar’s actions constitute an attack on civil liberties and academic freedom, and violate the right to freedom of movement and the right to freedom of information.
The Sangh Parivar attacked and disrupted the National Student’s Festival for Peace Communal Harmony and Justice on July 6, 2007. The organizers at Anhad, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, had invited Professor Shivji Panikkar to inaugurate an exhibition of student artworks. On his arrival, a Hindutva (Hindu nationalist/extremist) mob surrounded Professor Panikkar’s car, shouting slogans. When Professor Panikkar stepped out of the car, he was physically assaulted. The mob proceeded to throw bricks and an iron drum at the car, injuring the driver and smashing the windshield. Police intelligence, it has been made known, was involved and informed the crowd of the arrival of uniformed police, which allowed the mob to disperse.
On July 8, Deepak Kanna, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University resigned in protest of the attack on Professor Panikkar. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has called for Professor Panikkar’s exile from Gujarat, and the Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) began a signature campaign on the Maharaja Sayajirao University campus on July 11 in protest of Professor Panikkar’s alleged comments on Hindu bhajans (devotional songs).
Earlier this year, on May 11, 2007, Shivji Panikkar, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University, was suspended by the university administration from his appointment, for upholding a student’s academic right to freedom of expression. Sangh Parivar groups had attacked student Chandra Mohan’s works, displayed as part of an examination procedure, and had the artist arrested on May 9, 2007. Other students protested Chandra Mohan’s arrest by exhibiting erotic works from the school’s archives on the faculty porch, which the administration ordered to be shut down, which Professor Panikkar refused. The attacks against them had forced both Professor Panikkar and Chandra Mohan into seclusion out of fear for their lives.
We also condemn that such targeting has become indicative of the culture of fear and repression that is allowed to continue in Gujarat, where, following the genocide against Muslims in February-March of 2002, insufficient and negligent action has been taken to bring restorative justice to the survivors of the brutal, gendered and sexualized, violence. Failure to apprehend and bring to trial the perpetrators of criminal acts on the part of the Gujarat state administration has continued to subject minority and disenfranchised communities to a reign of terror. These acts of violence and repression are produced in particular by the complicity of state and national governments. The Government of India has failed to restore democracy by holding accountable the perpetrators, including the Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other government and law enforcement officials for the state’s proven complicity in aiding and abetting the violence of 2002. The Government of India has also failed to hold accountable the perpetrators among the cadre of Sangh Parivar groups for inflicting the violence, and, as applicable, refused to revoke their charitable status.
- We call for an immediate inquiry into the events that targeted Professor Shivji Panikkar.
- We demand that the as yet outstanding case against Chandra Mohan be dismissed.
- We ask that suitable action be taken against the perpetrators.
- We demand that the police take official cognizance of the documentation produced by ANHAD, Act Now for Democracy and Harmony, regarding the identity of the perpetrators, rather than restricting its actions to filing a First Information Report (FIR) against unknown assailants.
- We call for the restoration of Professor Panikkar’s appointment.
- We call for the restoration of law and order, and academic freedom, on the Maharaja Sayajirao University campus. In this regard, we demand accountability from the Vice-Chancellor of Maharaja Sayajirao University, Manoj Saini, who has direct responsibility for maintaining academic freedom on campus.
- We call for an independent inquiry into the activities of Sangh Parivar organizations that are involved in this case, such as the Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
- We call for an independent and impartial judicial enquiry into the government’s repeated inability or refusal to maintain law and order.
1. GMAA, Gujarati Muslim Association of America
2. AIM, Association of Indian Muslims of America
3. CSDI, Coalition for a Secular and Democratic India
4. CSFH, Campaign To Stop Funding Hate
5. Dharma Megha
6. Educational Subscription Service
7. FIACONA, Federation of Indian American Organizations of North America
8. Friends of South Asia
9. India Development Society
10. India Foundation
11. IACP, Indian American Coalition for Pluralism
12. ICF, Indian Christian Forum
13. Indian Muslim Council-USA
14. IMEFNA, Indian Muslim Education Foundation of North America International Service Society
15. INSAF, International South Asia Forum Bulletin
16. Non-Resident Indians Coalition for Justice
17. Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India
18. SANSAD, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy
19. Seva International
20. Supporters of Human Rights in India
21. Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment
22. Vedanata Society of East Lansing
23. Washington Watch
(Note: Organizational affiliations for individuals are listed for identification purposes only)
1. George Abraham
2. Rasheed Ahmed
3. Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
4. Rebecca Kurian
5. Dr. Khursheed Mallick
6. Saeed Patel, Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India
7. Devesh Poddar, Director, Washington Watch Incorporated, East Lansing, Michigan
8. Mayurika Poddar, Director, India Foundation of Michigan
9. Shrikumar Poddar, President, Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Okemos, Michigan
10. Raju Rajagopal
11. Dr. K. S. Sripada Raju, Director, International Service Society, East Lansing, Michigan
12. Dr. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Simon Fraser University
13. Amin Tejani, President, Shanti International, East Lansing, Michigan
14. Dr. Shaik Ubaid, Indian American Coalition for Pluralism
15. Sandeep Vaidya
[A letter from Pantul Kothari, with minor edits]
We write this letter to request you to sign a petition to the Governor of Gujarat condemning the recent events at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. A group of people with affiliations to Hindu supremacist groups barged into the Fine Arts campus, disrupted the examination and abused and threatened students and faculty members. A student was arrested for offending religious sentiments, and the Dean of the Faculty was suspended. Such attempts to stifle by force the rights to free speech and expression of individuals, and to impose on society in general the narrow perceptions of certain sections regarding what is permissible and what is not, constitute a serious threat to political, intellectual, and artistic freedoms in India. These attacks are especially worrisome since it points to a nexus between members of the Hindu nationalist BJP, who carried out the attack, the police, and the top levels of the University administration including its Vice Chancellor Manoj Soni.
The petition is available at www.petitiononline.com/MSUAUTO/
The details of the incident are as follows. On 9th May 2007, students of the Fine Arts Faculty had put up their installations around the Faculty campus as part of their annual internal examination/display. The Fine Arts Faculty is one of the best-known institutions within the M. S. University. The Faculty has also nurtured many renowned artists and it is here that the famous Baroda School of Art developed.
That afternoon, Vadodara-based BJP leader Niraj Jain (accused for the 2002 Gujarat carnage by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat), stormed into the Faculty premises, accompanied by local police and some accomplices. They manhandled Chandramohan, a final year MA student (and recipient of the Gujarat Lalit Kala Academy Award, 2005-06) who had put up some graphic prints. They accused him of offending their religious sentiments, saying that he had portrayed the goddess Durga in an obscene way. Dr. Shivji Panikkar, the Dean in charge, was also threatened with dire consequences by Niraj Jain and his cohorts.
Subsequently, Chandramohan was arrested and charged under sections 153A, 114, and 295 of the Indian Penal Code for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc, committing acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public. His examination works, which had been put up only for the sole purpose of the final examination, were apparently offensive to public religious sentiments. Since no citizen can be charged with Section 153 without the sanction of the State or Central government, and since in this case no sanction was sought, this was in effect an illegal detention. The police also refused to register a complaint against Niraj Jain when students, teachers and other organizations like PUCL approached them. On May 10, at Chandramohan’s bail hearing, alongwith the VHP and BJP crowds, at least 40 priests from the Methodist Church had also joined the cacophony of voices against Chandra Mohan.
In the meantime, the University authorities not only refused to support the students and the staff but insisted that Professor Shivaji Panikkar, Dean in charge of the Faculty (as well as author and editor of Saptamatrka Worship and Sculptures, 1997; Twentieth-Century Indian Sculpture, 2002; Towards a New Art History: Studies in Indian Art, 2003 among others), apologize to the BJP.
On the next day, May 11, the students and staff, denied any other form of protest, put up an exhibition focusing on the long history of erotic imagery in both Indian and Western art. In response, the Deputy Registrar issued a verbal request, followed by a written order, that the exhibition be closed down. Dr. Panikkar refused to comply as it was a decision by the students and this was their way of lodging a peaceful protest. Later in the day, the Pro Vice Chancellor, along with some members of the Syndicate arrived at the Faculty and locked up the exhibition. The same night, at 10 p.m. a suspension order was pasted on the door of Dr. Panikkar’s residence. He has been suspended for three months, not only from Deanship, but also as the Head of the Art History Department. No reasons were given for the suspension.
Chandra Mohan was released on 14th May 2007. The suspension order against Dr. Panikkar continues, and fearing attacks and arrest, he has been forced to go underground.
Over the last few days, art historians, critics, activists, artists and art lovers have launched a nation-wide protest against the Gujarat government’s latest act of fascism. On 14th May 2007, over 1000 artists from all over the country gathered at the Faculty to protest against the suspension of the Dean, the role of the University authorities, the police, Niraj Jain and the political forces he represents. Despite intimidation and abuse from some Hindu supremacist activists, the meeting conducted its protest successfully. That apart, artists in other cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Guwahati also held protest meetings. The battle is being fought on many levels — emails, blogs, protest meetings, legal proceedings, petitions, press releases, and signature campaigns.
We urge you to go through this petition, sign it, and also forward this email widely. In addition, you could also send letters of protest to some of the officials whose names and addresses are provided at the end of this letter.
For Association of Academics and Citizens for University Autonomy
Officials to whom letters of protest could be sent:
- The President of India
Office of the President
152 South Block Delhi
New Delhi, India
- Prime Minister
Dr. Manmoham Singh
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi, India 110011
Tel: 011 91 11 2301 2312
Fax: 011 91 11 2301 9545
Write to PM at http://pmindia.nic.in/write.htm
- Manoj Soni
Vice Chancellor, M. S. University
- People’s Union for Civil Liberties
C/o, Shishu Milap, 1, Shrihari Apartments,
Behind Express Hotel, Vadodara 390 007, Gujarat
Phone: Chinu Srinivasan 91-265-2342539, Rohit Prajapati +91-265-2320399
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Rohit Prajapati & Trupti Shah
37, Patrakar Colony, Tandalja Road,
Post-Akota, Vadodara – 390 020
Phone No. + 91-265-2320399
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com