Writers Respond to CJI Dipak Misra’s Observation in Favour of S Hareesh
August 3, 2018
The Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, while hearing a petition for a ban on the Malayalam novel Meesha by S Hareesh, observed that “the culture of banning books directly impacts the flow of ideas”. The court has asked for the publisher to produce a translated copy of the novel, and has reserved orders on the case.
With the rising number of cases of attacks on writers and the freedom of expression, this observation has been welcomed by a number of writers.
Activist and Malayalam editor in the National Book Trust Rubin D’Cruz said, “The Supreme Court’s observation on the petition to ban Meesa is a landmark statement on freedom of speech and expression. This comes on a continuation to the Chennai High Court order on writer Perumal Murgan’s case. It is a very reaffirming development in the present scenario where artists and intellectuals are being threatened and ridiculed.”
Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo, who was one of the names on the hit list of Sanatan Sanstha, and who has recently been given protection by the Goa police, said, “At a time when people are losing faith, this comes as a moral boost to the free thinking community, particularly the community of writers. I’m very happy with this judgement. Freedom of expression upheld by the Supreme Court. This will strengthen people’s faith in the Judiciary.”
Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan impressed on the importance of context. He said, “I am very happy to note that the Supreme Court has taken cognisance of the Writers' unfettered freedom of expression, and taken a stand against the banning of books. It has also made a clear distinction between deliberate pornography and creative writing. A character's s conversation in a novel cannot be read like a press statement by the author. And no reader is supposed to identify the writer with his characters as fiction is not autobiography. The language the characters use too depends on the narrative context and the background of the character. Hence the whole case is baseless and filed with the deliberate political intention to create divisions in the society. The publication of the book has been widely welcomed in Kerala though a few miscreants have burnt its copies. Most writers in Kerala are in solidarity with S. Hareesh.”
Kureepuzha Sreekumar, who is a Malayalam poet and who was also targeted by the RSS, had similar concern. He said, “Banning the works of any writer is an attack on their creative thoughts. As readers, we have the right to read whatever we want. At the same time, the reader also has the liberty to dislike the book if they want to. Let the people read the work and let them decide. If they don’t like they will stop reading his work. We should not jump into conclusions before reading it. The Supreme Court’s comment is welcomed. I congratulate the court’s decision to stand with the writer.”
K P Ramanunni is a Malayalam writer who has faced threats from Islamic fundamentalist groups. He donated his Sahitya Akademi award prize money to Junaid Khan’s family. Sharing the enthusiasm of other authors, Ramanunni said, “The Supreme Court of India upholds our Constitution. As writers and artists we are indebted to this institution. It has always upheld the constitutional rights – freedom of speech and expression — especially for the writers. The Supreme Court’s stand on S Hareesh’s case is a very welcomed one. But I would also like to point this; it should also take a clear stand against the mob attacks on the writers. The mob in this country uses a third degree violence method to snub our rights. The court should bring out a law against legally and socially banning of a book.
If the final judgement comes in favour of writer S Hareesh, then it not only just a victory over a case of a writer, it’s a victory for the rationalists, journalists and intellectuals like Dabholkar, Kalburgi, Pansare and Gauri Lankesh, and for the values they stood for. They were murdered by the right wing fundamentalist group because they wanted to curb their freedom of expressions.”
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