Author S Hareesh, who works as a government clerk in his native Neendoor, in the upper Kuttanad region in Kerala, wrote a novel in Matrubhumi weekly titled Meesha (Moustache). Although not a well-known writer or novelist earlier, Hareesh received Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 2018 for his short story.
A conversation in his novel is between two male characters. One character narrates to his friend that women (both wed and unwed) take bath and regularly visit temples lustrously dressed, to subconsciously declare their readiness for sexual relations with priests. The character goes on to say that the reason women hardly visit temples for four to five days a month (during menstruation) is to make it clear that they are not ready for sex at that time. He also adds that temple priests were well known professional womanizers. The characters in the novel do not identify a particular village temple or priest . Hareesh makes his observation on women and temples in Kerala.
Following widespread protests against this general observation, Hareesh withdrew his novel alleging threats from right-wing groups.
Left writers, including M Mukundan, K Satchidanandan, Anita Nair, Unni R and K R Meera said criticism against Hareesh and ultimate withdrawal of the novel is a threat to freedom of expression. Following wider protests, the Leftists justified that the novel depicted rigors of caste system that existed in Kerala half a century ago. But no Left historians came forward citing historical documents to vindicate the writer’s claim on degenerated sexual life of women visiting temples, in the context of caste system in Kerala. Committed Left historians of Kerala such as KN Panikkar, Rajan Gurukkal, KN Ganesh, MR Raghava Varrier and Suresh Gyaneshwar who usually produce documents and issue statements were silent. They could not produce a single historical document on highlight any particular temple or temples vindicating Harish’s narration of unchaste and debauched Hindu women of Kerala who had open sex with priests fifty years back.
The Left writers and their fellow travelers have a peculiar identity. They hardly appear with joint statements on freedom of expression against church and Islamic fundamentalism fearing strength of collective vote bank and money.
On March 2016, Malayalam daily Matrubhumi apologized for reproducing an ‘offensive’ comment about Prophet Muhammad that was posted on social media. The comment was a response to a story on Kerala High Court judge Kemal Pasha’s observations on polygamy among Muslims and Muslim personal law.
The judge pointing out the misogyny in the law had also asked whether Muslim men shall compromise with their women having four husbands. The Kozhikode edition of Mathrubhumi carried responses to Kemal Pasha’s views in the WhatsApp section of the newspaper. One of the posts criticized Prophet, without naming him, for “marrying six-year-old Aisha”.
The Matrubhumi newspaper was immediately ransacked by violent Islamic groups followed by street protests and campaigns on social media demanding immediate apology. The circulation of the tycoon print media in Kerala sharply decreased by one lakh in Malabar area alone within a day. By evening, Matrubhumi prostrated before the Islamic groups on its social media accounts and television channel publically apologizing a hundred times for “hurting believers”.
There was no protest or demonstration by left and progressive secular groups against Islamic fundamentalists, in support of Matrubhumi, the second largest newspaper in the state.
On July 2017, Malayalam writer K P Ramanunni, who writes on Hindu Muslim unity , received an intimidating letter which asked him to get converted to Islam, offer namaaz five times a day and observe Ramzan fast. “Otherwise, we would execute the punishment meant for infidels”, the letter said. There was no protest in support of the writer and against Islamic fundamentalism by Leftists.
A controversy erupted over the participation of former Vice-President Hamid Ansari in an event in Kozhikode on September 2017 in which the National Women’s Front (NWF), the women’s wing of the fundamentalist output, Popular Front of India, was a co-organiser. But left and secular writers silently vindicated him.
Aggressive and collective demography determines cultural graphs as evident from the multiple apologies offered by Matrubhumi and writer Ramanunni to Islamic fundamentalism. Hamid Ansari openly shared the forum of Popular Front making his stand clear and challenging the secular fabric of the state. Former Kerala Police Chief TP Sen Kumar was under fire for his remarks on demographic change in the state which he linked to the alleged “growing Muslim population in Kerala”, as reported by the Indian Express July 10, 2017.
Sen Kumar did not make a personal or isolated observation. As early in September 23, 2004, The Hindu, on May 11, 2017 the Times of India, and later on 14 July 2017, the New Indian Express reported the steep rise in Muslim population of Kerala.
In 2012, Sanal Edamaruku, writer and president of the Indian Rationalist Association was targeted by the Catholic church after he tried to debunk the mysterious dripping statue at a Vile Parle church in Mumbai. Members of a group called the Association of Concerned Catholics challenged Edamaruku, and an encounter began between Edamaruku and Bishop Agnelo of the Archdiocese of Bombay. Soon after the incident, a first information report (FIR) was filed by the Association of Concerned Catholics against Edamaruku under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum accused Edamaruku of blasphemy and the Archbishop of Mumbai asked him to apologize in exchange for dropping the charges. Edamaruku received death threats. He ultimately fled India and lives currently in exile in Finland. Our writers and cultural icons conveniently hid behind the holy cross and clergy.
In 2006, predominantly Christian Nagaland banned the sale of the novel and screening of the film Da Vinci Code, which was followed by other states. There was no hue and cry by Leftists and their fellow travelers on this suppression of the freedom of expression.
The Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC), Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum (MCYF), Catholic Residents Organisation for Social Services (CROSS) and Catholics for Preservation of Faith (CPF) carried out protests and demonstrations at Mumbai in September 2012, against the Hindi films Kamaal Dhamaal Malamal and Kya Super Kool Hai Hum. They charged that the clergy has been criticized in these films.
The Malayalam movie “Pithavinum Putranum” which was completed in 2012 and directed by T Deepesh is yet to receive clearance. It has been denied censor certificate since it portrays the distress of two nuns and criticizes the Christian priests. ” Though the earlier name of the film was “Pithavinum Putranum Parishuddhathmavinum” (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), it was later renamed “Pithavinum Putranum” (Father and the Son), to avoid any controversy. No film artists, writers or progressive thinkers from Left bandwagon or the self-styled liberal school came to help Deepesh fearing the money power and vote bank of the Catholic church .
In November 2016, suburban Mumbai’s Goregaon Social pub became the object of ire for Mumbai Catholics. They accused that its interiors are designed to look like a church. The Watchdog Foundation – an organisation claiming to represent Christian interests – and the Catholic Secular Forum filed a police complaint against the owner of Goregaon Social, demanding his arrest. The Archdiocese of Bombay released an official condemnation of the “blasphemous” decoration of the pub.
The Left and secular lobbies are virtually silent against religious fundamentalism in streets suppressing freedom of expression by Islamic fundamentalists and Catholic church.
Indian Leftists have been in the forefront in assaulting and intimidating writers and intellectuals who refused to toe their line. Many instances can be presented in this context which unveils progressive and Left writers in India.
Veteran thinker and writer OV Vijayan was a card carrying member of the Communist Party, which he abandoned along with his party ideology in 1958, when the Soviet Union executed Imre Nagy, the Hungarian leader. He became a close follower of Hindu civilization which accepted materialism and spiritualism as manifestations of one spiritual consciousness. Among the many Indian icons he adored, one was Ramana Maharshi. Vijayan became anathema for the Indian leftists.
Noted writer, academic and Marxist ideologue MN Vijayan became sworn enemy of the party after he charged in 2003 that development programmes, especially ‘People’s Planning’ launched by the Left Democratic Front Government in 1996 was sponsored by America’s Central Intelligence Agency and funded by the Dutch government and the World Bank. It was also accused that many Left intellectuals were associated with foreign funding programmes as reported by the Mainstream Weekly on 31st October 2007. Following daunting and tormenting Vijayan stepped down from the party.
In November 2007, the ruling CPI(M) in West Bengal asked controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen to leave the state since she is enemy of Islamic fundamentalists. No Leftist writers and organizations came forward to support her in West Bengal or elsewhere.
The India Today reported on January 11, 2010 that Paul Zacharia, Kerala’s contemporary short story writer and novelist was roughed up by a six member-gang of youths belonging to DYFI, the CPI(M)’s youth wing at Kannur district in Kerala. According to Zacharia, what provoked the left was his speech in which he lambasted the Marxists of intimidation.
Poet and former Marxist ideologue K C Umesh Babu said gangs engaged by the Marxist party had tried to kill him five times for questioning party ideology. Umesh was active in the party till 2007.
Veteran Bengali writer and Jnanapith award winner Mahashweta Devi has stridently criticised the West Bengal CPI(M) government’s violence and anti-Dalit farmer policies. She earned the wrath of Kerala CPI(M) in 2012, for heavily condemning RMP leader TP Chandrasekharan’s assassination by Marxists. She visited his house at Onchiyam in Kozhikkode to offer condolences to his wife and son. Although Mahaswetha Devi appealed to the filmmakers, cultural workers and writers in Kerala state to start protest against political violence by Marxists, there was deafening and dead silence. Noted Malayalam author CV Balakrishnan was also threatened by Marxists for condemning the assassination of TP Chandrasekharan.
Malayalam novelist, short story writer and social activist P Valsala, who was former Chairperson of Kerala Sahitya Akademi, was intimidated in 2015 by Progressive Arts and Literary Organisation, controlled by CPI(M). Her article on September 27, 2013 in the Matrubhumi titled `Thottunarthan Oru Cheruviral’ (The Little Finger that Wakes You Up) praised Mata Amritanandamayi “an illiterate woman who came from the most backward fishermen caste to lead an organisation which does immense charity work among poor and women”. Mata Amritanandamayi has remained staunch enemy of the Marxists.
Madampu Kunjukuttan, Malayalam author and a screenplay writer is another accomplished genius in modern Malayalam literature. He has won the national film award for best screenplay in the year 2000 for the Malayalam film Karunam, directed by Jayaraj. Madambu remains one of the few writers who have refused to yield to intimidation tactics of Leftists in Kerala.
Recently, the CPI(M) forcefully sought resignation of the editor of ‘Grandhalokam’ magazine S. Rameshan, party member and state Vice-President of Progressive Arts and Literary Organisation to step down. He refused to apologise for publishing an article that has accused legendary journalist Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai of plagiarism. The magazine has published an article by journalist Ramachandran in connection with the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx which triggered the controversy.
The Left and liberal groups who have resorted to assault, intimidation, subduing and assassination of any individual or idea anathema to them, today protest against freedom of expression on a fiction they claim historical, but adamantly refuse to produce historical evidence. The reason they put forward is that fictions written by progressive writers are historical. There is no need for further evidence.