The atrociously abysmal frenzy of hate that is running unbridled all over the country has added another victim to its ever growing list – litterateur MM Basheer.
He was writing a planned six columns for Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi on Ramayana. Unnamed persons kept on abusing him and the newspaper editors on telephone questioning how a Muslim had a right to write on a Hindu epic.
When the calls became too frequent, the paper and Basheer decided not to go ahead with the sixth and final column. Although the callers remain anonymous, Hanuman Sena’s posters near the newspaper’s office in Kozhikode point fingers in their direction. The posters repeat the same Muslim-commenting-on-a-Hindu-epic charge. Hanuman Sena is known for the violence it unleashed during the ‘Kiss of Love’ protest in the state.
Basheer, who is a former professor of Malayalam at the University of Calicut, said that his series was on Valmiki Ramayana which depicts Rama with simple human characteristics.
“Most callers kept insisting that I tried to attribute human qualities to Rama because I was a Muslim,” said Basheer. Basheer is renowned for his monumental work on Malayalam poet Kumaran Asan. Despite being a practicing Muslim, he has no association with any religious group or platform.
Indian Express reports
that the five published columns dealt with Sita’s “agnipariksha
” and Valmiki’s criticism of the same. Kerala has a ‘Ramayana’ culture and celebrates a month named after the epic. Such is the traditional connect with Ramayana that there is also a Muslim version of it – Mappilah Ramayanam
. Hindutva and Islamist groups in India have a history of taking offence to any writing or work of art on their respective religions that they think are critical of the faith or denigrates it.
It is not religion alone that offends people. Anything related to caste, too, may force a writer to quit writing.
A prominent case is of Perumal Murugan of neighbouring Tamil Nadu who announced his ‘death’ on Facebook
. Ever since his page is not available
. While the most significant case is of Salman Rushdie and his ‘Satanic Verses’, the success of a certain section in forcing the late MF Hussain to leave India is not less disturbing. The sad consequence is that writers of Basheer’s stature are silenced into oblivion. Like he says:
“At the age of 75, I was being reduced to just a Muslim. I couldn’t take it and I stopped writing.”