In recent weeks, the Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who works as a Tamil Professor at the Government Arts College in Namakkal, has been the target of vicious attacks by some casteist forces due to the alleged ‘controversial’ content in his book ‘Madhorubagan’ (English translation: One Part Woman). Protests by some people (not identified as mentioned by Mr. Murugan’s lawyer in a public statement) created a tense situation which involved burning his book and asking for the problematic passages to be deleted.
After a demonstration and a local bandh, Mr. Murugan accompanied by his lawyer, G R Swaminathan, admittedly a follower of the Hindu Munnani (a right wing Hindu organization), signed a ‘settlement’ at a peace meeting organized at the Namakkal Collectorate agreeing to issue ‘an unconditional apology, delete the controversial portions from his book, withdraw unsold copies from the market and not to write about any controversial subjects hurting the people’s sentiments.’
Following this, Mr. Murugan announced his decision to not write any more in a note on social media stating:“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.”
Round Table India strongly condemns the attacks on Perumal Murugan and his book and expresses full solidarity with him.
We publish here the translation of a blog post (dated Jan 14, 2015) by Aadhavan Theetchanya, noted writer and activist, which throws more holistic light on the persecution of Perumal Murugan and also explores the inadequate support, perhaps, extended to Mr. Murugan during the crucial moment when his oppressors raised their voice against him to a high pitch.
As this was being translated and edited, there is news that the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers’ Association has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Madras High Court, seeking to declare as null and void the peace meeting held at Namakkal Collectorate. ~ Round Table India
Where is that Kasu Kannan?
~ Aadhavan Theetchanya
Perumal Murugan has made significant contribution as an intellect to ‘Kalachuvadu’ magazine and the publishing house of the same name. He is also part of the magazine’s editorial team. By publishing almost all his works through ‘Kalachuvadu’, the writer has also helped to heap revenues for the publisher. ‘Madhorubagan’, his novel – which has been recently mired in controversy amidst protests from Hindutva hardliners and caste based groups – is also published by ‘Kalachuvadu’. As one could see it, Perumal Murugan has devoted his entire life’s work thus far to ‘Kalachuvadu’, and it becomes pertinent at this juncture to ask what ‘Kalachuvadu’ has done in return for Perumal Murugan, amidst the brewing controversy and assault on his freedom of expression?
After the increasing predicament Perumal Murugan faced over the protests over ‘Madhorubagan’, the crisis eventually hit the news media. Subsequently, as a publisher of the novel, ‘Kalachuvadu’ Kannan had to answer a few questions thrown up by the media. Apart from answering these few questions, it could be said that Kannan has done nothing substantial for Perumal Murugan.
If one could peep into the Facebook page of Kannan, one could only get to see smiling pictures of him gesturing and posing with different people. One could not gather any information on Perumal Murugan, the writer and the crisis that has stalled his writing. There is no hint or opinion from Kannan on the very many campaigns and movements in Tamil Nadu that have come to light in support of Perumal Murugan. Only this morning (January 14, 2015), one could see a link in which he has signed a public signature campaign/petition on the issue. Perhaps Kannan is busy thinking if he could write an essay or Open-Ed on Free Speech and absolve himself and his publishing house of further responsibilities.
But many of us know about the networks and contacts of Kalachuvadu Kannan. We also know his caliber to turn the entire town in his favour in the face of any trouble. Our question is why has he not used any of these resources to save Perumal Murugan from the ongoing assault?
For it was Kannan who knew how to approach the courts over copyrights on Puthumai Pithan’s name and works, and it was the same Kannan who knew how to send police personnel to confiscate passports of those who insulted him over phone. And when libraries in the state were ordered to stop buying his Kalachuvadu magazine, an alarmed and alert Kannan also knew how to hold a Conference for protecting Freedom of speech and Expression. When ‘Madhorubagan’ started to face controversy, an informed Kannan printed thousands of copies of the novel in anticipation of a spike in sales. He has also been able to hold book release functions to attract the visitors during the Book Fair at Chennai. And those who expected the able Kannan to start a movement in support of Perumal Murugan were only left to be disappointed.
When the district administration called upon Perumal Murugan and his publisher, Kannan for ‘peace’ talks, Kannan sent his lawyer in his place and went on a book-selling spree. It is learnt that the learned counsel belongs to the ‘Bharatiya Janata Party’ and one can presume a myriad underlying subtexts when the counsel states that he has come to defend his ‘party’. It is also learnt that, it is on the assurance given by this lawyer that he would be able to tackle the Hindutva brigade, Perumal Murugan asked his students and friends to refrain from accompanying him to the ‘peace’ talks, only to be caught unaware and find himself isolated.
Even the heart-rending public note of Permal Murugan, announcing the death of the writer, has failed to evoke any consideration from the mercantile heart of ‘Kalachuvadu’ Kannan. Kannan should have either expressed some solidarity during the Book Fair so as to absolve himself and his publishing house or should have mobilized his contacts and influenced the Book Fair to close down at least for a day in support of Perumal Murugan. It may be in vain to expect Kannan to do any of the above, as Kannan failed to participate even in the peaceful demonstration held in support of Freedom of Expression and Perumal Murugan by writers, artists, journalists and publishers on the evening of 13th January, 2015.
One expects Perumal Murugan to write, and the same Perumal Murugan to face the onslaught of protests and humiliations, and amidst the brewing controversy, one needs the help of free speech activists for struggle and demonstrations, whilst ‘Kalachuvadu’ and Kannan garner the greenbacks and takeaways. It would be apt to say that after the nation has burnt away, Kannan and Kalachuvadu would be busy claiming pennies in exchange for the ashes.
The word in the literary circles is that Kalachuvadu (the literal translation into English would be ‘foot prints in time’) actually stands for Kasu (money). Another thought also doing the rounds is that it is not Kalachuvadu, it is Kalachevidu (deaf in time). And going by the recent developments, it is apparent once again that the tales and hearsay are nothing but true.
Translated from original Tamil by Hari Prasad.
Aadhavan Theetchanya is a writer, activist and Deputy General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers & Artists Association.
Picture courtesy:the net.