How the recent controversies like that in Meesa Novel propel radicalisation of Indian society.

A Malayalam short story writer, S Hareesh, recently ignited a chain of controversies with his feature novel- Meesa (meaning. Moustache) in a Malayalam weekly magazine- Mathrubhoomi. The said novel, in a conversation between two actors, alleges that hindu women goes to temples well dressed are making a declaration that they are ready for sex with the temple priest. He further comments about the lustful history of the temple priests. The dialogue goes on to say that they skip the temple visit for four or five days a month (allegedly during menstrual periods) to make it clear that they are not ready for intercourse. Even the second character seems to be of an approving attitude.

The novel was initially critically received, which I believe would be revolting to all staunch hindu devotees, especially women. Even several people who approach religions from a rational perspective, yet valuing the culture and traditions, have publicly expressed open opposition. Meanwhile several right-wing Hindu organisations have taken stands calling for the boycott of the novel as well as the magazine. Multiple threats were issued to the author and his family from such organisations. Eventually the author has declared withdrawal of the novel owing to personal safety and that of his family.

However, after these calls and threats to the author, the “practical” polical parties, which were initially mute on the issue, came out lashing the right-wing groups and publicly declaring support for the novelist on the grounds of freedom of expression. Many political leaders tried to cash-in on the situation even by offering publication of the feature novel under their publication company. It can be inferred that these outcries have come under the backdrop of the rising sentiments against the right-wing Hindu groups and the feeling that certain political organisations are trying to hyjack Hindu religion. Hence these days, other political parties take stands which is exactly opposing to the stand taken by the right-wing organisations. The same is visible in cases of several other cases of contemporary nature.

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Temple-going women -and even men- value hiegiene, both of the body and the mind, and devotion above all on their visits to temples, and this definitely cannot be seen as lustful. Though the comments may represent the views of a single character and may not be the opinion of the author, the general sentiments of a community should have to be respected when publishing a novel in a weekly magazine. Freedom of expression should be self moderated, it should never hurt the sentiments of any religion- it is the same if the assualt is on a majority or a minority. The issue should be seen in same angles as the criticisms raised against Mammooty for his anti-women gestures in Kasaba movie. In my personal opinion, the content of the novel can not be justified on the grounds of freedom of expression, since there is an outright insult on a particular segment of community and for the sheer fact that the novel was not published as a book, which would be read by mature literature lovers on their own discretion, rather in a popular weekly magazine that has a wide spectrum of readers.  However, I strongly believe the attitude of the right-wing groups to threaten an author for his literature is definitely an act of interference with the freedom of expression. The ideal scenario should have been to suggest censorship of the content to remove the controversies dialogues and continue the publication. Publishing such a novel as a separate book, instead of forcing on the readers of a weekly magazine, should have been justified.

Now comes a major social issue- those who are in opposition of the comments made in the novel, however not radicals who in anyway intend to threaten the author, are left with no sides to part. The practical and just community, which should have taken a neutral moderating stand has already decided to outrightly vouch for the publication of the remarks, in their hatred towards the right-wing forces. The situation would have been much different if the remarks were against Dalits or other minorities, as has happened in multiple contemporary issues. Who do you think is in advantage here? Of course, the radical Hindu groups who try to “own” the religion and religious culture as their own. The men and women are involuntarily drawn into supporting such fractions. And the mass psychology tend to naturally orient towards the fundamentalist forces, as a representation of the ideals one believes in.

Infact the society is getting more and more polarised, and with a majority of over 70% belonging to a specific community, it is easy to imagine which of the poles would be the lion in the jungle. The same pattern can be seen in cases of facist forces in Hitler’s Germany and several other fundamentalist forces which have thrived through the history. Unintentionally but ironically, the very same anti-radical community is catalysing the cancerous growth of the radical community.

It is still not time past the scope of corrective measures. The adovcates of democracy and tolerance should weigh their views judiciously, for that we are living in times ever dangerous in the history of India. This polarisation if unchecked, could eventually result in complete polarisation of the society and a potential civil war, capable enough to tear the country apart.