Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Festival sans Celebrations

This is not about the Republic Day, where the might (of forces), the height (of achievements) & the sight (of the cultural riches) is on display, with a foreign Head of State in attendance.

This is about the Jaipur Literature Festival, where the most influential participants were connected neither to Literature or the Festival. A bunch of hoodlums, prodded by religious leaders & passively supported by the State, managed to mute one of the most celebrated contemporary writers. 

This is akin to secessionist elements protesting against the Republic Day parade as their regional/ethnic aspirations have not been met by the republic. Would the State play silent spectator as it did in the case of Rushdie? 

What was the protest about? A book written a couple of decades back, which I doubt the leaders of the protests have read. And even if they have read it, how many of these zealots would have made meaning out of it? But, this is the story that is played out all over the country with a regularity that makes it blur in the background.

I recall an event related to the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, the cultural capital of Gujarat, a most peaceful state. Faculty of Fine Arts, for the uninitiated, is a hallowed institution that has produced artists admired all over the world for their prowess & vision. It has also produced a larger no. of creatives who have made a name for themselves in the Indian advertising industry. One such young artist caused a storm in the University. This student had submitted painting/s of goddess that were deemed to be objectionable by a students' organisation. The issue was cremated when the Dean of the Faculty was evicted from his position. Where was the State? It was not a spectator that time, but let loose a team of ideologically affiliated academicians on the artists. 

But, here's the more interesting part... The bunch of academic goons who went in for the kill included one who once called himself being "next only to Brahma" to his post-graduate class! I only have the second-hand version of the said proclamation (not having attended that class), but the question is - who was more blasphemous? An aged academic having visions of divine grandeur, or a young artist having dreams of making a mark for himself? Fortunately, the post graduate students were mature adults focused on their future & another needless controversy was avoided. 

But this maturity is not on display in rest of the country. Some of these can be dismissed as political mischief. But,the disease is more deep rooted. The Khap panchayats of North India should have been declared terrorist organisations by now. They are dragging the society back in time by use of social force & violence, having put up a parallel structure of Law. What is the utopia that drives them? They hark back to a time when Manu put down in words the structure of his preferred social order. Unfortunately, Manu's perverted opinion achieved social immortality & is a major hurdle in the creation of a assimilative social structure in India. 

The State is unlikely to do anything in this regard, as the players involved feed on the rigid social classification for electoral gains? However, if even a few of them go through Manu's writings, they would definitely be ashamed of themselves & the whole social structure they thrive on. Things might then change for the better!

Dismiss the thought... they won't have time for such literary adventure. They got their thrills at Jaipur. Damn the young kids in Haryana, UP or Faculty of Fine Arts. Matters of heart & art are low priority.

A Happy Republic Day!!

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