Ummid Assistant

Jamia Millia launches courses on China, Afghanistan

IGNOU launches value education programme for teachers

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home Education & Career

Ramayana controversy: India's pluralism under threat again

Saturday October 29, 2011 09:48:18 AM, Amulya Ganguli, IANS

As Delhi University's pusillanimous decision to scrap A.K. Ramanujan's essay on 300 versions of the epic Ramayana shows, vice chancellors and professors easily choose the discretion of trashing a book or a work of art over the valour of upholding the principle of intellectual freedom in a democratic country.

As was demonstrated by Bombay University's similarly gutless capitulation to the Shiv Sena last year on Rohinton Mistry's novel, "Such A Long Journey", in the syllabus, the academic community is mortally scared of defying Hindu right-wing militants. It is, however, worthwhile noting that the saffron crowd has succeeded in making its writ prevail in Delhi and Mumbai, where the Congress and other secular parties - which claim to have a more open mind on the question of art and letters - are in power. It would have been understandable if the deletion of Ramanujan's essay and Mistry's novel had taken place in Narendra Modi's Gujarat, but that is not the case.

If the secular stalwarts in the government at the centre have maintained a deafening silence, the reason is a cowardly reluctance to offer a head-on challenge to the Hindu nationalist brigade lest it cost them the Hindu vote. But that is not the only reason. Such faintheartedness has been in evidence in the corridors of power ever since Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" was banned by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1988 to placate Muslim fundamentalists. So it isn't the Hindu extremists alone who are favoured.

Even the Communists haven't been noticeably brave in this respect considering that the Buddhadev Bhattacharjee government hurriedly bundled out Taslima Nasreen from Kolkata in 2007 following demonstrations by a little-known Muslim outfit. Interestingly, Taslima first went to Rajasthan, which was under the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) rule at the time.

It has to be remembered, however, that the BJP is all for artistic freedom as long as it is the Muslims who claim to be offended. Hence its support for Rushdie and Taslima. The party is up in arms only when it believes that the sensitivity of the Hindus is affected.

Curiously, however, it is the BJP's Atal Bihari Vajpayee who voiced the correct sentiments when the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune was ransacked by a group of Marathi chauvinists in 2003 because the author of a controversial biography of Shivaji, James W. Laine, had worked there. Vajpayee's view was that anyone objecting to Laine's book could write a rebuttal of his own instead of indulging in vandalism.

If only the leaders of secular parties had been as forthright about the importance of a scholarly debate, M.F. Husain would not have had to die in exile. There is little doubt that it is their gutless conduct which has encouraged the saffron goons to lay down the terms which the artists must follow.

For the Sangh Parivar and the BJP, it must be a matter of satisfaction that their agenda in the "cultural" field has not suffered any setback as a result of their loss of power at the centre. True the two United Progressive Alliance governments have rectified some of the distortions in history books which the Vajpayee government had introduced. But there has been little or no resistance to the threat of violence which the saffron outfits make against books, paintings or exhibitions which present a picture different from their own.

They are particularly aggressive about the Ramayana since their politics revolves around the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya, which they project as a symbol of Hindu assertiveness vis--vis the Muslim "invaders". It also propagates their concept of establishing a Hindu 'rashtra' (state) in India, which is the Parivar's ultimate objective.

Not surprisingly, therefore, they are unable to accept any interpretation of the epic, as the one by Ramanujan, which differs from their version in which the emphasis is on Ram as a warrior. This selective depiction is intended to provoke the Hindus to rise against their enemies who, in accordance with the Parivar's subtext, comprise the minorities. It is easy to see how this rendering is different from Mahatma Gandhi's focus on Ram Rajya, the ideal state where Ram is a benevolent ruler for all.

The Ramanujan version was reflected in an exhibition organised by Sahmat in 1995 which looked at diverse origins of the Ramayana. Like the essay, it had earned the ire of the saffronites who lost no time in attacking it.

Unless the secular politicians and intelligentsia show great courage and personal integrity in their commitment to an ideal which they profess to cherish, both pluralism and artistic freedom in India will be under constant threat from the pseudo-religious zealots.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at






Bookmark and Share

Home | Top of the Page



Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of

Comments powered by DISQUS




Top Stories

AMU team winds up Maharashtra tour; to decide on location in few days

The high level AMU expert team which was in Maharashtra on a three day tour to inspect the land for its proposed centre in the state left for Aligarh via New Delhi today morning. During its stay in Maharashtra, the team 

AMU team arrives in Maharashtra, begins inspecting land for sub centre

AMU Maharashtra: Expert team to inspect lands for sub centre October 26

Aligarians in Maharashtra throw weight behind AMU Malegaon


  Most Read

Food inflation rises further, at 11.43 percent

A week after it breached double digits, India's food inflation continued with its upward climb and was recorded at 11.43 percent for the week 

Inflation-focussed RBI hikes rates again, may hold off another revision

Cabinet discusses AFSPA, reviews situation in Kashmir

Against the backdrop of a raging debate over a proposal to withdraw the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas in Jammu and Kashmir, the Cabinet Committee on 

Removing AFSPA no reflection on army, says Omar


  News Pick

For a day, Manipur forgets blockade and celebrates

The markets were buzzing with excited revellers - many haggling over the price of fish - and there was excited chatter at homes as people prepared various cuisines, all in celebration of Ningol

Wedding wows! 120-year-old man marries 60-year-old

If their respective ages were to be added up, they'll date back to India's first war of independence in 1857. So, when 120-year-old Hazi Abdul Noor tied the knot with 60-year-old Samoi Bibi, the 500 guests at the wedding  

Delhi asked to probe BJP's school uniforms distribution

India's child rights panel has asked the Delhi government to probe and report to it on a complaint that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were distributing uniforms and satchels to students of schools run by the Municipal  


Picture of the Day

Nashik District Magistrate P Velrasu greeting AMU Vice Chancellor Prof PK Abdul Aziz and Prof Anwar Jahan Zuberi, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences and former Vice Chancellor, University of Calicut, in Malegaon on October 26, 2011.




RSS  |  Contact us


| Quick links



Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant






About us




Government Schemes










Contact us





    Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

2010 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.