CHURUMURI POLL: Is India a liberal Republic?

On the eve of the 62nd anniversary of the “sovereign socialist secular republic”, a nice little knife has been stuck into the heart of liberal India by goondas and moral policemen. The author Sir Salman Rushdie has pulled out of the Jaipur literary festival following threats from “influential Muslim clerics” of the Darul Uloom Deoband, who suddenly remembered that his banned 1989 novel The Satanic Verses hurt the sentiments of Muslims ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Considering that the book was banned the cowardly Congress government of Rajiv Gandhi 23 years ago, it will surprise nobody that it was the cowardly Congress government of Ashok Gehlot that did the needful this time round. Instead of reassuring the world that the “Indian State” would protect every single individual, down to the last man, woman and child, even if he has offended the super-sensitive and super-patriotic—especially if he has offended the super-sensitive and super-patriotic—the Rajasthan government caved in to the thugs.

And the Manmohan Singh government meekly watched on—just as it meekly watched on when A.K. Ramanujan‘s essay Three-hundred Ramayanas was being proscribed by Delhi University (where Singh’s daughter works), under the benign gaze of Sonia Gandhi and Shiela Dixit (peace be unto them).

While the Congress deserves every brick, shoe and invective hurled at it for the latest “stain on India’s international reputation“—on top of its execrable efforts to screen Facebook, Google and the media—no political party is properly clothed in this horribly naked hamaam which repeatedly and brazenly cocks a snook at free speech and expression.

# The warnings of Hindutva hitmen owing allegiance to the BJP drove M.F. Husain out of India, forcing him to live the last years of his abroad.

# NCP goondas burnt down a library in Poona because its author had used it to write a book on Shivaji, which they didnt’ like.

# In the glorious republic of Gujarat, movie watchers could not catch Parzania because–horror, horror—it showed the plight of Muslim victims in the 2002 pogrom; because, well, Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s government couldn’t offer basic security to theatres.

# Ditto Aamir Khan‘s Fanaa.

# And of course, the “alleged apostle of peace” couldn’t bear the hints of bisexuality in the real apostle of peace, so Joseph Lelyveld‘s book on Mahatma Gandhi was conveniently removed from the eyes of readers.

# In Left-ruled Kerala, a professors’s hand could be merrily chopped off with gay abandon by Islamists because he had mistakenly prepared a question paper that used the named “Mohammed” for a somewhat daft character. (And who can forget what happened to Deccan Herald, when it printed a short story titled Mohamed the Idiot.)

# Taslima Nasreen was unwelcome in Left-ruled Bengal because her views didn’t match those of the mullahs. (She was later attacked by Majlis MLAs in Congress-ruled Hyderabad and her visa reluctantly renewed by the UPA.)

# The BSP government of Behen Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh banned the film Aarakshan because of is “derogatory” take on reservations.

Questions: Are we really a tolerant, liberal nation open to views from all sides? Or in the 21st century, are we utterly incapable of using the word freedom without adding “but” to it?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Does freedom have its limits?

‘Online extremism has lowered tolerance levels’

What’s the correct word for a Hindu fatwa?

Free to live. Not free to do and say as we like?

Why we mustn’t ban the book on the Mahatma

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34 Responses to “CHURUMURI POLL: Is India a liberal Republic?”

  1. Anand Baradi Says:

    India is an adventure where citizens find the common ground in spite of varied differences , it may be short of ideal liberal republic but still better than the rest of the world

  2. Mysore Peshva Says:

    Excellent post, good sir.

    The Rajasthan government has utterly disgraced the Indian constitution by its incompetence. Of what use is the state if it cannot guarantee the personal security of ONE individual?

    Worse, what sort of immoral state expresses sympathies with the issuers of a physical threat? Chief minister Ashok Gehlot represents a sorry travesty of India’s constitution and of his state’s liberal culture.

    Speaking of culture, it is evident that the more un-Hindu our society becomes, the most illiberal its attitude turns to dissenting voices. The so-called cosmopolitanism of India, leading to a gentrification of our ancient culture, has sidedlined India’s inclusive dharma in favor of whatever the heck appeases the Muslim minority.

    In any case, protesters against Rushdie are proving by their aggressive, demanding, violence-tinged, attitude that the fatwa-driven clannish Muslims have few attributes of a truly “minority” community. It is time India’s politicians summoned the moral courage to stop India’s inclusive Hindu culture being systematically replaced by a veneer of “liberal democracy” that favors the bawdry nonsense of aggressive Abrahamic religion. Liberal democracy, in any case, can succeed only in a culture that celebrates the dissenting voice of no matter how puny an individual.

  3. harkol Says:

    India has been illiberal ever since Nehru. The concept of Secularism = all religions being equal (Sarva dharma samabhav). This absurd interpretation of secularism has meant, we’ll pamper all narrow minded, fundamentalists equally!

    So, we never see a road widening that can remove a place of worship, or even a ‘sacred’ tree. Folks can get away with violence in the name of spontaneous emotions on religious provocation.

    Liberalism?? Where ?

  4. the colonel Says:

    Liberalism?? Where ?

  5. Vitlan Potli Says:

    No contest, Absolutely NOT!!!

  6. FirstReality Says:

    I think no foreign head of the state should visit india considering they have greater threats to their life when our govt is not capable of providing security for Rushdie.

  7. thegreatindiandebate Says:

    You don’t really need a poll to get at the answer.

  8. pdk Says:

    One item is missing from the list – the episode in Mangalore where girls in pubs were attacked to save our culture.

    I think what we have is a law and order problem, which means we have to give in to every group which threatens, directly or indirectly, violent actions/reactions/repercussions.

    That and an citizenry which thinks might is right, as the recent lawyers-episode in Bengaluru exemplifies.

    The combination of the two is a a bit of an intractable problem.

  9. visajet Says:

    I believe no country can match up to being a “really a tolerant, liberal nation open to views from all sides”. Name the country, and you can see or look up sufficient incidents and tendencies of bigotry, discrimination, racism, etc. The perception however, is different and we Indians somehow discredit our situation more and credit the west more than what is deserved. There is a lot of salt in the fact that we have allowed for a woman and a minority leader (president/PM) within just 60 years of independence. It says a lot for a system that allows this to happen. Very few countries can claim such things, and it took the US – generally mentioned as the most advanced country in the world – more and a couple of centuries to get a minority leader.

    India is not perfect, but better than most places. Indians just don’t perceive it that way, though.

  10. sanjeeva Says:

    What we have is not a liberal democracy but a libertine democracy. It is not Swatantra bharat, but Swacchand Bharat, where anybody can do anything anywhere anytime. (more if you have money and power). There is a Govinda’s film song “….. meri marzee). That is it.

  11. ERR Says:

    India is a ‘litterer’ republic….

  12. dr ramesh Says:

    The question,is india liberal ? Comes across to only a few who often misuse freedom of speech, i think it is habitual transgression. Common man in this country has more than fair oppurtunity to air his views and opinions. Mf hussein continuosly dished out some nude figures and so called liberals called it art, hussein thrived on the controversy. Today some person abuses a historical figure or a religious icon in the name of art , he becomes an instant celebrity. The trend is dangerous. A self confessed intellectual residing in bangalore abuses kannada and kannadigas naturally incurring wrath of kannada organisations. He then runs about shouting india is not liberal. This is silly and insane.

  13. Faldo Says:

    India like many countries can be said to be liberal in some ways while not being too tolerant in some other ways. One thing that India suffers from is a problem of enforcement of the law, partly because its institutions are not sufficiently equipped and staffed. The fact that India is still a largely poor country with a significant number of uneducated citizens, with enormous diversity in all respects perhaps makes it harder. Many of us tend to hold India to high standards, comparing it with other advanced nations without sufficiently appreciating the constraints that the country operates under. One can’t expect first world standards to come about with third class systems. They would take a while to evolve.

  14. FirstReality Says:

    Dr Ramesh, everything you said goes against the basic tenets of liberalism. You should rather say you do not believe in liberalism, that’s more dignified.

  15. Sharath Says:

    We’re not a “liberal” nation but we’re hardly conservativeRushdie has come to the country several times and gone back without incident. When elections weren’t happening.

    Our leadership is opportunistic. Because our population is well..stupid and lacking in vision. “We are the biggest fools because our self-appointed religious leaders Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc., think this is how to energize the base. Because the average Hindu, the average Muslim, the average {insert noun form of club here} is assumed to be so incredibly stupid as to fall for this type of frick-all gimmick. Sadly, we, the citizens, have done nothing to disabuse our leadership of this notion. Nothing at all. The Vote Bank of India offers complete security for your deposit of stale bullshit with 20% returns compounded quarterly and has branches in all major religions, castes and philately clubs.”

  16. pdk Says:

    Have to agree with Faldo. It is all very well to label a government “cowardly” and throw “bricks, shoes and invectives” at a particular party, but let’s say the Rajiv Gandhi govt had not banned the book. One of two things could have happened. One, nothing. Two, a sudden/gradual escalation of violence at myriad spots all over the country. Do we have the police force to prevent such a thing from happening? Most of our policemen look extremely weak and undernourished. There aren’t enough of them in any case. Court cases drag on for years and decades. Third class systems trying to enforce first world standards as Faldo puts it.

    Now, suppose the second had occurred, who would be held responsible – the govt or someone else? I’m not supporting the ban in any form or shape, just noting that governments have to take difficult decisions.

    Praveen Swami in The Hindu today, on the same topic but coming at it from the point of view of religion’s influence on the country and the downside to it:

    India cannot undo this harm until god and god’s will are ejected from our public life. No sensible person would argue that the school curriculum ought to discourage eight-year-olds from discovering that the tooth fairy does not exist. No sensible person ought argue, similarly, that some purpose is served by buttressing the faith of adults in djinns, immaculate conceptions, or armies of monkeys engineering trans-oceanic bridges. It is legitimate for individuals to believe that cow-urine might cure their cancer — not for the state to subsidise this life-threatening fantasy.

  17. vaidya Says:

    Is it even possible to achieve true liberalism in a country like India? Especially in matters concerning religion. Right from many centuries two religions have led more or less an uncomfortable co-existence. To be truly liberal there should already be some give-and-take. Otherwise one or the other will always be getting offended at something and flaring up, and when you appease one you just have to lend the same hand to the other to keep the other appeased. So when you are ready to ban 300 Ramayanas, you better be ready to not let Rushdie in.

    The question is where do you draw a line between a serious offence and calling the bluff. In Rushdie’s visit’s case the Govt felt a tad too eager to toe the slightly reluctant line drawn by the clerics. They might have well ignored them and gotten away with it. But I guess the Congress more or less saw it as something that might sway some votes (which probably would not have come their way anyway, but that’s a different matter). Too much democracy? Trouble with democracy?

  18. dr ramesh Says:

    I hope these so called liberals will not go to the extent of saying indian penal code, police laws are violation of liberalism. If consuming marijuana ,ecstacy is considered freedom of expression , then arresting those people is against liberal—– the thought process of some of these pro-liberal voices defy common sense and logic.

  19. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    Despite our selling our soul to the West, we cannot be a permissive democracy because there are too many purohits, mullas, and pastors who stand to profit from our ancient mental make up.

    The cure: literacy that goes beyond signing one’s name.

  20. Anonymous guy Says:

    We may not be liberal and we may not have the brains or brawn to even feed ourselves, but we sure are emotional to the point of being suicidal.

  21. sanjeeva Says:

    PTL – If you think literacy or education makes people’s outlook broader, you are wrong. If you look around you will find that with the rise in education level, people are getting more and more conservative. Liberalism has to arise from within a person’s thinkings, churning of the mind and slowly the reform spreads through the people and the society. Literacy or education does not make a person ‘educated’ or wise. Look at our society. It is the literate people who are most in flouting the laws – from a simple not following traffic rules to indulging in corruption.

  22. ಗತಕಾಲದ ವೈಭವ Says:

    India was a republic till 2011. Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram and Bharadwaj (Guv) have turned into into a dictatorship.

  23. Kitapati Says:

    I agree with Sharat on Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ being an unreadable book. I even got a copy of this from england and since last 15 years I have tried many times to read this book and it is such a horrible read. Rushdie’s genius is a case of ‘Emperor’s new clothes’.

  24. DailyBread Says:

    >Most of our policemen look extremely weak and undernourished.

    lol, our intellectuals ki jai ho.

    >That isn’t counting the rent that ought to have been paid on the 15,000 hectares of land used for the festival

    lol, Swamiji wants yatris to pay the rent for using the riverbank. Once again, our intellectuals ki jai ho.

  25. FirstReality Says:

    “We may not be liberal and we may not have the brains or brawn to even feed ourselves, but we sure are emotional to the point of being suicidal.”

    Deserves to be posted twice.

  26. DailyBread Says:

    A brilliant response to Swami:

  27. twistleton Says:

    Well, all other forms of entertainment aren’t allowed because of morality issues… how else will the super-pious take a break from their daily duties?? Especially whent the Indian cricket team has not been justifying all the pampering it enjoys :P

    Kicking up a lark is one of the last privileges they enjoy…

  28. Rao MS Says:

    Actually the Govt: has ended up over glorifying Mr. Rushdi by ”some how preventing” him from attending Jaipur Lit Fest only to please some ill motivated section of a particular community. this not done to uphold any value or any principle; it is all to garner some assured votes.

  29. Emptymind Says:

    Liberals vs Conservatives, Capitalism vs Socialism , Communalism vs Secularism, atheism vs theism etc etc. why stupid human being fragment his consciousness into so many “ism” and different theories to understand reality. This process of fragmentation of mind is often leads to confusion and it not creative way of visualizing the things as really as it is. The key here is to balance these dualities. What happen if I say Liberals = Conservatives, Capitalism = Socialism , Communalism = Secularism. atheism=theism
    People’s mind always rots in viewing the REALITY with fixed reference frame.
    And The most important quality the man required is Endurance. This is what we are lacking. This is source of our sufferings

  30. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Emptymind, Your equation makes no sense. Just saying 2 = 3, does not make them equal. If you don’t understand these concepts, you can always read up on them or talk to someone who does.

    Endurance where?

  31. asha Says:

    Rushdie at best is a mediocre writer,…most of his books will ensure one and only one thing…instant sleep !!. He is also like the other much advertised movie poster painter who ran away to hide in Kuwait and was fond of painting obscene pictures of Hindu deities. Both of them had one common trait, which was salivating at each and every good looking women they could set their eyes on. The poster painter even made a jackass of himself producing and directing a movie with the yesteryear heartthrob…ek,do,teen, while Rushdie ensures he is always in news by changing his girlfriend/living in partner every fortnight.

  32. Abdulraheman Patrawala Says:

    We have some new readings in India being the liberal republic. Salman Rushdie: an intellectual terrorist for Satanic Verses; CJI Homi Sarosh Kapadia is a judicial terrorist for his verdict in Vodafone case causing the nation and the public exchequer Rs. 11000 cr. loss. Narendra Modi is a political terrorist for Gujarat Pogrom 2002. M.F. Husein is an artistic terrorist for painting the nude Hindu religion icons. L.K. Advani is an ideologue terrorist for demolishing the Babri Mosque. Mamta Banerji is a neo-communist terrorist for defeating the concept of socialist republic of India as enshrined in the Constitution of India.

  33. Emptymind Says:

    Mr ananonomos guy
    Come on man, no need to read book or ask someone to understand these simple concepts. Do you heard this sentence “ kuch paane ke liye kuch kona padtaa hai”. Being “LIBERAL” is nothing but being “CONSERVATIVE” to newly created ideas. Being “CONSERVATIVE” is to “LIBERAL” to old established ideas. Here if you want to blame any one of it u cant, Because both are same. One conditions the other. Just like Heat vs Cold. Define what is cold?. It is just absence of heat. Both are measured with same units. And mind it we sense it with respect to our fixed established reference frame and we call it as heat or cold.
    If u want to blame something u must know the “ INTENTION” behind being liberal or conservative. We need to “conservative” to protect our forest our natural resourses. And we must “LIBERAL” to open ideas which benefits all living creatures. Intention drives the KARMA. If Intention is good we praise it, if it is bad , we reject it.
    Coming back to heat vs cold, try to cook food touching hot plate with bare hand. Please accompany your mother or grndma with u, I guess ur mother or grandma wont feel hurt touching the hot plates compare to u who may not have experience in it, may ran away, feeling it burns u. how did ur mom or grandma done it. That is called endurance. Endurance will teach many things to human being. It even breaks your “fixed established reference frame” from which all stupid people view this world.
    “Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes. – Buddha

  34. Emptymind Says:

    Sorry guys, I have made simple mistake in my previous comments. As nobody reviewed my interpretation I do it myself. I equated theories with theories this is not my exact view. I should have done it personalities with personalities and it should be conditioned by time. A person cannot always be liberate, if he then he should emptied his idea soon after its implementation! . He is Liberates only while implementation of his ideas and soon he has to become Conservative to protect his implemented ideas! Why the hell, people call its Liberates vs.Conservatives. PRESENT LIBERATES = FUTURE CONSERVATIVES, PRESENT CONSERVATIVE = PAST LIBERALS, this is how wheel of ideas flows.


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