Protect novelist Murugan's freedom of expression: Sahmat

New Delhi


The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat) Saturday called upon the Tamil Nadu government to protect novelist Perumal Murugan's constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression from extra-constitutional cultural censors.

Tamil novelist Murugan Jan 13 announced his decision to give up writing, saying there will be continuing controversy over his novels and short stories fanned by various outfits and individuals.

Thanking those who stood in his support in connection with the controversy surrounding his novel "Madhorubhagan", he said the issue was not going to end with this.

"We call upon the state government of Tamil Nadu to protect the writer, his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression and his creative integrity from such extra-constitutional cultural censors," Sahmat said in a statement.

"We call upon artists, writers, intellectuals, readers and the concerned public at large to rise to the defence of democracy imperiled by this unwarranted and vile abrogation of an author's right to write," it said, adding that it was a "shocking and serious blow to the freedom of expression".

According to Delhi-based Sahmat, Murugan was bullied, blackmailed and harassed by "anonymous vested religious elements led by the Hindutva right, in collusion with the police and the state administration of Tamil Nadu, into helpless submission - so much so that he has, in pain and frustration, announced that he is giving up writing altogether".

It said "Madhorubagan" was published in 2010 in Tamil and an English translation was published in 2013 under the title "One Part Woman".

"As if on cue to an orchestrated campaign initiated by the RSS and the BJP in the state, the work has, over the last few weeks, suddenly come under attack for allegedly being offensive to the local dominant caste of Tiruchengode (near Erode in Tamil Nadu), where the story is set," it said.

Various organisations, caste outfits in Murugan's home town Thiruchengodu, 410 km from Chennai, protested against the novel, whose story revolves around the problems faced by a childless peasant couple and the woman's attempt to get pregnant following a tradition of consensual sex with a stranger. - IANS