Indian Secularism and Free Speech: Not for the Hindu
FACT is an acronym for Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism, an organization founded by Francois Gautier, a French journalist based in India who shares a deep empathy for the sufferings of the Hindu, both past and present. This compassion stems not from a blind fascination but is an informed considered judgment derived from a close reading of Indian history. Troubled by the inexplicable apathy of the Hindus vis-à-vis their own past torment, this Frenchman has taken upon himself the duty to educate Indians, through a series of exhibitions, about the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh and more recently the fiend, Aurangzeb.
‘Aurangzeb as he was, according to Moghul records” is the title of a collection of paintings highlighting the atrocities of this tyrant and has been exhibited to much acclaim in the cities of Delhi, Pune and Bangalore. FACT-sponsored exhibitions are not crude street shows but sophisticated exercises in true history telling anointed by the likes of Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, KPS Gill, N. Vittal and B. Raman. Whether we agree with their views or not we must admit that these individuals are upright citizens of our country who would think twice before associating themselves with dubious ventures.
The same exhibition was hosted in Chennai at the prestigious Lalit Kala Akademi, and was scheduled to run from March 3- March 9. But on March 5, a group of Islamic fundamentalists barged into the exhibition, objected to the show, created a ruckus and threatened to storm the place with hundreds of supporters after Friday prayers from the mosque nearby. A day later, the Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali visited the exhibition and claimed that FACT was misrepresenting history. In the words of Kanchan Gupta (Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb, Daily Pioneer, March 9, 2008):
"He was particularly enraged by two miniatures — the first depicted Aurangzeb's army destroying the Somnath temple and the second showed the destruction of the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.
By Thursday, March 7, "higher authorities" in Tamil Nadu Government had issued instructions to the police to shut down the exhibition. Murali, (Asst Commissioner of Police) along with his men, stormed into the exhibition hall on Thursday evening and began taking down the paintings. "He was looking for the paintings showing the destruction of Somnath and Kesava Rai temples. He threw them to the floor," said a FACT volunteer."
This sequence of events raises the disturbing specter of how Islamic fundamentalists in concert with vested interests can suppress the dissemination of authentic history and thwart a basic tenet of democracy: the principle of free speech.
Aurangzeb was a confirmed bigot vetted by historians of every hue and persuasion. There is not a shred of evidence to proclaim his innocence or any shadow of doubt about the religious oppression that he unleashed against his Hindu subjects. But yet we have a Muslim community taking up cudgels on his behalf. This only serves to give you a glimpse into the mindset of certain sections of India’s Muslim population who remain in a time wrap of past Muslim glory which was marked by the destruction of hundreds of Hindu temples and massacre of thousands of innocent Hindus and who continue to revere religious despots like Aurangazeb.
The two miniatures referred to above are hardly controversial; the events depicted having been corroborated by Aurangzeb’s own words and the works of his own sanctioned chroniclers. As proof of the same:
a) "... The Temple of Somnath was demolished early in my reign and idol worship(there) put down. It is not known what the state of things there is at present. If the idolators have again taken to the worship of images at the place, then destroy the temple in such a way that no trace of the building maybe left, and also expel them (the worshippers) from the place. ..." (From "Kalimat-i-Tayyibat" by 'Inayatullah, a collection of letters and orders of Aurangzeb compiled by 'Inayatullah in AD 1719 and covering the years 1699-1704 of Aurangzeb's reign.)
b) “During this month of Ramzan abounding in miracles, the Emperor as the promoter of justice and overthrower of mischief, as the knower of truth and destroyer of oppression, as the zephyr of the garden of victory and the reviver of the faith of the Prophet,issued orders for the demolition of the temple situated in Mathura, famous as the Dehra of Kesho Rai. In the short time by the great exertions of his officers the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built at the expenditure of a large sum..." ( from "Mas'ir-i-'Alamgiri" by Saqi Must'ad Khan. This work was completed in 1710 at the behest of Inayatu''llah Khan Kashmiri, Aurangzeb's last secretary and the materials which Must'ad Khan used in this history of Aurangzeb's reign came mostly from the State archive)
The Tamil Nadu government, by succumbing to the pressure of Islamic fundamentalists without ascertaining the facts has not only shown poor judgment but exhibited an eagerness to appease fundamentalists. More importantly, this brings to the fore the anti-Hindu agenda of the DMK run Tamil Nadu government that has repeatedly trampled on Hindu sentiments. Just a few months ago, the DMK supremo Karunanidhi let loose a vituperative tirade against the Hindu deity Shri Ram in the context of the Ramsethu controversy and the manner in which the assistant commissioner of police responded to his ‘call of duty’ in this matter is another example of the deep seated antipathy towards Hindus and Hinduism that some in this state harbor.
What was even more striking was the total blackout of this incident from the mainstream English media. Except for the Daily Pioneer, none of the major Indian newspapers including the Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and Times of India thought it fit to report the event. The Hindu did print a few lines but that was to commend the closure of the exhibition: so much for these so- called bastions of free speech.
Compare this with the quantum of newsprint and number of editorials that followed when Hindu groups disrupted an exhibition at Baroda University last year: the contrast is striking and double standards all too obvious.
And what about those self-appointed champions of human rights like Teesta Setalvad and Shabana Azmi? Surprisingly I do not hear even a murmur of protest from them: another testimony to the fact that their activism is not a fair effort to promote human values but a devious conspiracy to target Hindus.
I cannot but infer that Indian secularism is warped. Indian secularism is discriminatory. Indian secularism is nothing but a tool to muzzle the practicing Hindu. It is a synonym for minority appeasement and Hindu bashing. Until we change this attitude and apply the same yardstick to one and all we cannot hope for a truly civilized democracy in India.
1) Destruction of Hindu Temples by Rajiv Verma
2) Kanchan Gupta: "Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb", Daily Pioneer, March 9, 2008
Indian Secularism and Free Speech: Not for the Hindu
- » Published on March 10, 2008
- » Type: Opinion
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