“Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write. I will get up. It is just that my mind wishes to spend a little time in the joy of this moment. My thanks to friends who stood by me. My thanks also to friends who stood against me.
A flower blooms
after the big bang
The flower would
take up and establish
– Perumal Murugan
Thus ended the six years of trepidation felt by Kongunadu author Perumal Murugan for he alleged “provocative” writings.
The Madras High Court quashed the criminal proceedings against Murugan who was taken to task for his title Mathorubagan, translated into English by Penguin India as One Part Woman, reported The Quint.
The story, set in Murugan’s hometown Tiruchengode, is about a childless couple who contemplate whether they want to take part in a festival ritual of the half female god Ardhanareeswara. It revolves around the theme of the festival – the night of which, a union between any man and woman is permitted.
Published in 2010, it wasn’t until 2015 that the book attracted the ire of right wing Hindu and caste outfits – who burned copies of the book in Namakkal, used derogatory language among other threats to incite fear in the mind of the author.
Tiruchengode turned violent when English translations of the book were released. The right wing outfits termed it offensive and threatened to shut down the town.
This prompted the local authorities to call a peace meeting where in front of a district official, Murugan had to agree to withdraw all copies of his book.
Murugan in a Facebook post announced that he would not write anymore –
“Perumal Murugan the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He also has no faith in rebirth. An ordinary teacher, he will live as P. Murugan. Leave him alone.”
Citing article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution – the Madras High Court upheld freedom of speech.
Taking the example of Victorian literature in the form of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the bench led by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said that the choice was always with the reader. “If the reader did not like the book, he or she would be free to throw it away. What may have not been accepted earlier became acceptable later – think Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov,” read the bench.
Taking mention of The Mahabharata, the bench spoke about sex not being undesirable – but as an essential part of life since the dawn of civilization. It added that as guardians of our heritage and culture, one would do well not to ape long forgotten Victorian ideals and instead look to our own scriptures and writings.
“The state cannot take away someone’s right to free speech because of a law and order situation – just because a certain section of society expresses displeasure at art – they cannot react violently,” the bench said.
The bench also spoke about Art being provocative – and not being meant for everyone, neither was anyone being compelled to view it.
The bench also mentioned that the mediation arrived at during the peace meeting was not binding on the author – and also called upon him to write again.
Quite ironically, the judges themselves enjoyed the book – “we felt that it could not be put down without going through the whole hog. It was so absorbing!”