Tag Archives: Mumbai

“Their threats chill free speech”

Salil Tripathi on the Shiv Sena’s book-banning campaign-

Mistry’s is not the only novel to show Mumbai’s parochial patriarchs. Earlier this year, Murzban Shroff, coincidentally another Parsi author, faced a lawsuit from an activist called Vijay Mudras, who was upset that a character in one of his stories referred to Marathi-speaking people as ghaatis. Shroff’s collection of stories has been widely acclaimed—it was called Breathless in Bombay, but it was disliked by the mindless and mirthless in Mumbai.

Shroff didn’t think poorly of Marathi-speakers—a character in his story did. If all characters in every work of fiction are to behave impeccably, what will become of our epics? Will the Mahabharata be withdrawn because Duryodhana asks Dushasana to drag Draupadi by her hair? Doesn’t that scene humiliate women and glorify violence against women?

The views of a character are not the same as those of the author. This was the point deliberately misrepresented during The Satanic Verses saga, where the Ayatollah declared a fatwa on Salman Rushdie who had written about the hallucinations of a character losing his mind, imagining that he was founding a great religion.

Hindu nationalists get riled when they are compared with Muslim leaders declaring fatwas. But the difference between those who want Such A Long Journey or Breathless in Bombay banned and the clerics who hate Rushdie—and the cartoonists of Jyllands-Posten—is marginal. Their threats chill free speech.

What if the views of a character were those of the author? Even that doesn’t give philistines the right to ban what they don’t like, or to attack the author.

The problem is, even if India fixed article 19(2) of the constitution and scrapped the laws related to libel, the chilling effect will not disappear. The mere threat of physical violence, time and place unspecified, is enough to silence a vast majority of people who would rather stop speaking than stop living. It takes just one “example,” like Theo van Gogh. To paraphrase a line from Body Snatchers that expresses the sentiment quite well, “Where you gonna go? Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere….”

Kangaroo

There is an article in Mint about one of the Mumbai terror attack gunmen – Kasab

Should we conduct an SMS poll to decide whether we should hang (Mohammed Ajmal) Kasab?” city-based lawyer Trideep Pais asks rhetorically.

He was reacting to a Mumbai-based lawyer group passing a resolution that forbids members from representing the only surviving member of the terrorist group involved in the Mumbai attack on 26 November.

The Bombay Metropolitan Magistrate Court’s Bar Association (BMMCBA)—that passed the resolution—comprises 1,060 lawyers who practise in that city’s courts.

Pais’ argument is simple: Every criminal has the right to be represented in court. But lawyers such as Pais who represent alleged terrorist groups or terror suspects face social ostracism and political harassment.

This must change, they say.

And they are right.

Mob justice is an uncivilized, medieval practice, and the fact that it is still practiced in rural India does not mean that India’s cities and towns should do the same. Even if a man kills ten people in front of hundreds of others, unless he’s brought down then and there to end his killing spree, its the law courts that pronounce a verdict on him. This is what civilization is all about – taking away the right of the mob – an entity whose collective intelligence is at a level comparable to savages – to decide on the life or death of someone, and giving that right to cool headed people who make the decision after considering all the evidence concerning a particular case – even a case that is an ‘open-and-shut’ one.

The presumption of innocence myth needs to be maintained so that justice is seen to be done. Such fatwas – preventing lawyers from representing terrorists – are dangerous because its raises a serious question – where will you draw the line? Should people accused of rape be denied legal representation? What about murderers? The fact that the terror attack happened in the open changes nothing. A society that is willing to suspend the rule of law because of the inconveniences that accompany it does not deserve justice. If it wants justice, it should be willing to give it to others too – particularly those against whom public opinion stands. But since people hardly care about philosophy, its hardly surprising that they care even less about the philosophy of law – jurisprudence. Idiots.

Varma is right, but…

On the media circus surrounding his visit to the Taj after the terrorist attacks, RGV writes

I find it shocking that in the wake of such a terrible incidents happening in the country, the media can waste so much time and telecast hours and subject the people of the country to something as inane as some filmmaker’s presence at a place which for the life of me I can’t understand how it can affect anybody or anything in comparison to what else is going on.

Media makes us believe, not necessarily by intent, that only they have the interest of people in their hearts, and due to that people tend to believe in them blindly. This is a classic example of the blind leading the blind. Outcome of this can be many times ridiculous. As per some Media peoples suggestions even if remotely this episode can affect a Government’s standing, I find that almost as dangerous as terrorism.

If people who attack the unarmed are defined as terrorists then Media at various levels with their coercive methods and insinuations are very similar. A terrorist attacks the mind and kills the body, the media attacks the mind with its interpretations and kills a person’s spirit with its insinuations. In a way I would say that Media is more dangerous than terrorists because they do it under the guise of safe-guarding values.

But then, the Indian media worships Gail Wynand – it gives people what they want.

Evasion and India

There are times when I let emotions get the better of reason, and you might find examples of that on this blog – not wanting to acknowledge the facts, a phenomenon Ayn Rand referred to as “context-dropping”. Most Indians – the Indian media in particular, are guilty of that too. But there are some who don’t let that happen. Like At Cheruti.

“You cannot convert every city into an armed garrison because of intelligence reports of a possible attack.”

That’s what Swami writes in the Economic Times of December 3.