Writers are no longer safe in today’s world. They are already refugees in the world of words, finding no solace in the real world or in the world of imagination. They create worlds where they pack words along with themselves exactly the way the refugees from the rest of the world try to migrate to the European shores. They may survive in the course of transportation or may perish, either within the containers and freezers or in the jails that they eventually land up. The lucky ones wander in the world of writing selling their talents and emotions to the ones who care. Writers have lost their land of security. They are now being hunted down by the fascists and fundamentalists. If someone has mistaken fascism as a thing of past, it is time for them to rudely woken up into the cruel light of reality. It is still there. If you speak up, they are out there to get you. There are no trials or confinements. The instant execution of justice takes you to the other world where words and lines no longer matter. Or does it matter who knows?
Ours is a time of intolerance. Last century saw how the Islamic fundamentalists issuing Fatwa against the internationally acclaimed writer, Salman Rushdie, who went into hiding for decades only to come up with an autobiographical volume that narrated his life as a refugee and exile, constantly fearing the bullets of the fundamentalists. ‘Joseph Anton’ told us how he lived in London and elsewhere, masquerading like a character in a cheap thriller movie. Reading ‘Anton’ makes things easier for the reader but the narrator had gone through some real hell. That is the virtue of the words and narratives; they make things look less threatening and even a potential death threat would look so desirable in them. Rushdie survived and perhaps the fundamentalists too have lost the steam in that pursuit. Then it was the turn of another Indian Muslim to go in exile. His name was M.F.Husain, the legendary painter though this time his attackers were Hindu fundamentalists from India. Taslima Nasreen from Bangladesh has been running for her life for the last two decades though the very running itself has brought her name, fame, asylum and love. She is safe in India and she has offers from elsewhere too. But she too lives on the edge for the Islamic fundamentalists of Bangladesh have not forgotten her.
There was a time when the writers and artists got into trouble with the larger societies; often the point of difference was their writerly ethics. None questioned them for their religious beliefs or bigotry. They were free to express their ideas. Maximum they were questioned for their sexual deviance that challenged the morals of the Christian world. Sade, Castanada, Wild, Lawrence, Genet and so on were criticised for their explicit sexual narratives or even deviant attitudes in personal lives. They were arrested, trailed and punished. But none claimed their lives and none accused them of having done some wrong that demanded capital punishment. But our times things have changed. The world was divided into two by 9/11 when the Islamic fundamentalists attacked the twin towers in the world trade centre in New York. A new villain was born. But unfortunately, they went on consolidating the villain image for themselves by attacking the Dutch cartoonist for caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed. The vicious attacks continued in various forms and its climaxing was in Paris this year when Charlie Hebdo, the satire magazine was attacked and a few cartoonists were shot dead including its editor.
May be we are going through the days of the aftershocks. An earthquake of considerable intensity could raze down a city into nothing. There could be aftershocks that could bring down the rest that defied the first wave of tremors. The aftershocks continued in various forms interestingly in the Indian subcontinent. First it was an attack on U.R.Ananthmoorthy, the famous writer, pedagogue and public intellectual, as he said that he would prefer to live in Pakistan if Narendra Modi came to power. Moorthy was remembering the genocide in Gujarat allegedly masterminded by our Prime Minister who in 2002 was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Modi did win the elections and he became the Prime Minister of our country. But a group of right wing fundamentalists reached his home with abuses and a flight ticket to Pakistan. It was a public shaming of a writer by a faceless mob which was driven by the Hindutva ideology. Our Prime Minister did not do anything to stop such harassment of writers in our country. Moorthy, as he was ailing, did not last long. He left us leaving a strong impression in the society; he still tells us through is writings, how a society should protect its secular fabric.
(late U R Ananthamoorthy)
Violence spread to the rest of the regions and this time it was the Islamic Fundamentalists who picked up the weapons; literally crude weapons like swords and machetes. In Bangladesh, one after another three bloggers were cut down in the streets, in complete view of the helpless public. The attackers came just like any other person in the street and hacked them to death. Washiqur Rahman was the first and Avijit Roy who came from Canada all the way to attend a literary meet went down second and recently Anant Bijoy. What did these writers do? They wrote about the ruthless activities of the Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh. They stood for social justice, education and public accountability of the clerics and theologians. They wrote for the people and they strived to hold the democratic values up. Some of them were sounded like atheistic views. The easiest to way to silence them was to hack them into pieces.
The latest is near home. Former Hampi Kannada University Vice Chancellor and a much revered award winning Kannada writer, M M Kalburgi was shot dead today morning by right wing fundamentalists at his home. Being a left ideologue, Kalburgi has been very vocal against the growing right wing fundamentalism in the country, especially in Karnataka. He had been given armed security which was withdrawn a few months back at his request. Today morning, an assassin walked into his house, shot Kalburgi dead and left. The news has already shocked the country and most of the writers and intellectuals have condemned the attack. This incident has a chilling resemblance with the assassination of the rationalist Narendar Dhabolkar in Maharashtra in 2013.
What is happening to our world? Today, three Al Jazeera journalists are given jail sentence in Egypt for operating in the country without sufficient documents. That means, for the state and its fundamentalist wings, writers and journalists have become a threat and they have recognized the fact that the words could be more cutting than the rules and automatic rifles. In Northern India, of late it has become a habit of the goons turned politicians to do away with political bloggers. They are brutally assassinated when they refused to yield to coercive tactics. Writers are the people who still carry the conscience of the world, these incidents reaffirm. How long are they going to kill the writers for writing the truth? How many are they going to kill for telling and singing the truth out? Don’t they know that when one is killed a hundred is born? How can they cut the tongue out of the mouths of millions of people who are capable of writing and still write? Today it is Kalburgi. Tomorrow someone else. But the fight does not stop there with this terror against writers. The more you kill the more they write. They write from skies, from clouds, from rains, from waterfalls, from woods, from sand particles, from rocks, from birds, from animals and from the children who are born every day, they write from jails, schools, colleges, hospitals, asylums, borders, no man’s lands, airports, jogging tracks, gardens, mountains, forests, hills, coffee shops, liquor shops, bars, toddy shops, beedi shops, textile shops, from fish markets, from ships, from streets, and from holes and hovels, from mansions and hamlets, from planned housing complexes and from shanty towns...will you be able to kill them all? You can kill but you cannot destroy the never say die spirit of a writer. Moving hand writes and writes on.