Fanaticism has escalated alarmingly. Freedom of expression is under siege. One cannot express heterodox opinions except on pain of legal penalties, persecution and social ostracism. Movie star Khushboo opined that men should no more expect their brides to be virgins and added that when youngsters indulge in pre-marital sex they should use protection. Her views are prima facie sensible and are also held by several persons. One may disagree but resort to her criminal prosecution manifests frightening fanaticism.
Khushboo’s remarks are said to have hurt a section of the people. So what? Freedom of expression cannot be held hostage to irrational subjective feelings of some over-sensitive intolerant persons. We are living in a pluralist democracy. Our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. In the celebrated case of S Rangarajan, Justice Jagannatha Shetty, speaking for the Supreme ,Court categorically ruled that freedom of expression protects not only ideas that are favourably received but also ”those that offend shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society.”
Suhasini Mani Ratnam who agreed with Khushboo’s views has also become the victim of a vicious public campaign by some self-appointed upholders of Tamil culture and morality. She is also facing prosecution. This is fascism at its worst.
The fatwa issued by some Muslim cleric objecting to the skirt length of our tennis champ, Sania Mirza, when playing tennis is ludicrous. Apparently the cleric’s eyes did not concentrate on Sania’s style of playing tennis but wandered lustfully down to her thighs. If Sania’s tennis attire is indecent, the concerned authorities and our laws can take care of that. Fatwas have no place in our secular society. We must strongly resist and curb these fascist and Taliban trends.
Lessons of Jehanabad
The Jehanabad jailbreak is horrendous in its scale?and has perturbing implications. It is not a case of mere security lapse or a law and order problem in Bihar. It is the culmination of a guerrilla type warfare launched by the Maoists/ Naxalites with the support of disaffected sections in our society.
The Jehanabad incident no doubt deserves condemnation because violence is unacceptable. But one may well ask: have there been any genuine attempts to redress the grievances of the Naxalites which basically stem from the iniquitous nature of our system, the total lack of social justice in our society? If plutocrats can flaunt their wealth by obscene expenditure running into lakhs on marriage and similar functions when the vast majority of our people are struggling to make a decent living, the burning?sense of injustice is bound to intensify and inevitably erupt in violence. The ultimate solution lies not in counter offensive police action but in sincere economic and social reforms whereby Naxalites can be integrated into the mainstream of our system and made to give up the path of revolt. We cannot behave like King Gyanendra of Nepal.
People have strong emotional attachment to certain names. Many countries have named their roads, auditoriums and airports after their popular leaders. Kennedy and Indira Gandhi international airports in New York and Delhi are some instances. In the south the favourite names were Stalin and Lenin. Now more people prefer the Christian names of Russian political and literary characters, like Svetlana and Nikita. Recently some comrades have even named children Pravda, the old Soviet official newspaper. Occasionally one comes across the name, Jesus, which is a fine example of political and religious co-existence.
Parsi Zorastrians who fled religious persecution in Persia in the eighth century and landed in India retain old Persian names like Jamshed, Rohinton, Asphandiar, Tehmina et. al. It is a pity that the sonorous name, Sohrab, has been shortened to Soli and the great Persian warrior Rustum has been reduced to Rusi. A corrective could be the recitation of Mathew Arnold’s Sohrab and Rustum by Keki Daruwala, one of India’s finest poets. India International Centre may take the lead.
Story at IE