While India as a whole seems to be marching towards liberalisation on both the political and cultural fronts, the future of censorship remains uncertain, partly because of a possible contradiction in the Indian Constitution itself. The very first section of Article 19 guarantees freedom of expression, but the second clause subsequently indicates that the government retains authority “to legislate concerning libel, slander, defamation, contempt of court, any matter offending decency and morality, or which undermines the security of or tends to overthrow, the State.” It is this text that is repeatedly cited by the state when it agrees to demands by religious groups to ban works of art: the security of the state. But security for whom, and from what? The irony is that the threat to security from censorious religious groups is the threat they themselves pose. It is hard to understand why the religious groups responsible for fomenting riots against offensive works are not being prosecuted, and in their places are writers, artists and filmmakers.
Overall, it's probably not the most brilliant thing I ever wrote, but it's satisfying to have one's views "in print."
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I should also link to Yesha Naik's podcasts of a moderated panel I was on with Amitav ghosh and Vijay Seshadri at the SAWCC conference back in May. I was asking the questions for the first half hour, when I turned it over to the audience:
Part 2: What is the writer's responsibility?
Thanks, Yesha, for editing these and posting them online!
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Enough tooting my own horn. There's lots of other stuff to read online this week:
--I found this extract from Bruce Lawrence's new book on the Quran to be very informative. Lots of basic information on the history of early Islam.
--I'm always a bit shocked to find how insistent the presence of religion is in some public school systems in the U.S. This article in the Times on a Jewish mother's struggle to fight open Christian proselytizing in in a rural Delaware district (actually not that far from Philadelphia!) is an eye-opener.
--A great article on Samuel Beckett in the New Yorker.