Tuesday, May 29, 2007

As We Age

60th Year of Independence, 150th anniversary of the first war of independence and the 57th year of the Republic are the numbers that indicate our aging as a nation. As we age, I get a feeling that we have leapfrogged the stage of maturity and are knocking at the doors of senility. Lagta hai sathiya gaye hain hum log! How else do you explain the increasing fundamentalist rhetoric in the country? I guess most of you would be aware about the not so recent happenings at the Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) Baroda. IITB visitors to this blog would remember it as the college with hot women that always missed the podium at the FashP in Mood Indigo! Anyway, Chandramohan Srilamantula, a student of the arts faculty at MSU happened to work on three graphic illustrations, two on the Indian Mythology (One on Durga and another on the lines of Dashavataram) and a third one featuring the Cross in an internal examination. Apparently the fragile religious sentiments of a few were bruised. Lo and behold, we had ‘activists’ from VHP/ BJP/ Bajrang Dal and a few motley Christian groups protesting against this attack on the ‘Indian’ culture and traditions. And in a total before-you-blink kind of style, the Gujarat Police exercised its powers and quickly arrested the ‘culprit’ for hurting, what else, religious sentiments. Most of the university faculty and student community was aghast at this development. The Dean of the Arts Faculty at MSU, Shivaji Panikkar refused to issue an apology and was immediately suspended at the behest of the state government. Incidentally, the student – Chandramohan happens to be the only student from Gujarat in 2005-06 to receive the prestigious Lalit Kala Academy National award for exhibited excellence in his works.

The detractors claimed that even the students were against this unabashed depiction of religious figures. We had the young student leaders (who of course are in their early 40s/late 30s) of the BJP affiliated ABVP wax eloquent about the vulgar and brazen nature of the illustrations. The leader of the opposition, a certain Lal Krishna Advani had the gall to say that freedom of expression is contingent to religious sentiments not being hurt! I fail to understand his locus standi at his crude attempt to qualify one of my fundamental rights. Hope someone has the good sense of reminding him that India is still the democracy and thankfully not the ‘Ram-rajya’ that he and his cohort of buffoons might want her to be!

And of course, there has been this fresh furore over the sketches of one MF Hussain and a ludicrous judgment issued by a lower court in Haridwar. Thankfully, good sense prevailed as the 24 hr news machinery cried itself hoarse and we had the Supreme Court stalling the order. It would be interesting to note that Hussain had relocated to Dubai 6 years back due to the constant outbursts of the ‘hurt’ segments! We have also seen the drama around non-hindus not being allowed to enter temples. Yesudas was denied entrance to the Guruvayur Temple because he is not a Hindu. Though there seems to be no hesitation in playing bhajans sung by the same yesudas in the temple. I have entered the Dargah Shareef at Ajmer and the Buddhist Gompas in Ladakh without anyone enquiring about my religious beliefs. I wonder what happened to the Hindu philosophy of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbam’ – entire world being one large family! We also have had Christian associations creating a scene around the release Da Vinci’s Code. This happened whilst the rest of the Christian world, which is numerically stronger, allowed screening of the film without much hue and cry! Guess I can simply go on and on – on this!

All this and the day-to-day incidents make me feel that we are losing it as a nation. We are a 5000 year old civilization and I think its time we act our age. I fail to understand how we have managed to pollute the moderate nature of our way-of-life! I try but cannot justify the free proliferation of fundamentalists in our country. It might be possible that all is not lost yet. We have some voices that have been unequivocal in their support for the freedom of expression. But it is high time that moderates stop being nonchalant … I mean non-vocal about the increasingly extremist events in the society. For whatever it is worth, Hindustan is one of the few successful democracies to emerge out of the imperialist era. It is important that we do not fall into the ‘righteous’ trap of fascism. So speak up, you also have a stake and an important one at that!


JeevSingh said...

yeah Parle, pata nahin kya ho raha hain. Punjab and Rajasthan ..same story. It appears sab kuch sirf attention chahiye.

Mo said...

It is not a fundamentalist rhetoric as much as the belief that indian culture is fragile.

One could safely attribute it to the need for attention. But wasn't it always the case?
Is it that we just notice all this chaos a lot more? Think about it, it takes little to get to a news channel these days (Remember Jahnvi kapoor), and every little thing is blown out of proportion.
Few years ago, it would have been on the third page of a local newspaper and you wouldn't even get to know.

Mo said...

There you go!

Now they want Orkut shut down!