Sunday, 25 November 2007


The newspapers and television channels carry regular updates on the Taslima Nasreen affair--how she has been hounded out of Kolkata due to the fury of Islamic fundamentalists and is now living under heavy security in Rajasthan Bhawan. What amazes me about the Indian political system is the ease with which fundamentalists of various hues--especially saffron and green--can hold it to ransom. Remember the Shah Bano case and the banning of Satanic Verses?

Although the BJP demands that Ms. Nasreen be treated as a political refugee and be given asylum, they have also targeted M. F. Hussain in the past, for his nude paintings of goddesses. What these so-called protectors of Indian culture seem to forget is that women have been depicted bare-breasted in paintings and sculpture of the ancient Indian period. Take a look at Ajanta and Ellora, please! Their aesthetic sense is nourished by the work of Raja Ravi Varma, who depicted Indian gods and goddesses in a style favoured by the imperialist Victorian British government. They should take a good look at a work by Phalguni Dasgupta, which depicts a nude Shiva, lying on the ground, while a nude Kali dances over his prone form. This illustrates the saying that Shiva without Shakti is a Shava (dead body).

What the Indian political class understands by the term secularism is kowtowing to the so-called religious sentiments of the orthodox minority to maintain communal harmony. We need a muscular secularism that will say "No!" to fundamentalists of all hues who try to prevent Indians from presenting their point of view on subjects associated with religion.

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I work as a freelance editor and writer in New Delhi. 


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