A couple of days ago an article written by Devdutt Pattnaik appeared in The Hindu. I’m at loss for comprehension after reading that article titled “In Maya, the Killer & the Killed”. What was the author trying to convey? He said much and ended saying nothing.
The author blamed terror attacks on the karma of the terrorised- the victims. He further went on to say that the emotional violence committed by Charlie Hebdo- the intangible pain their journalism caused to Muslims was what triggered the violent act and the emotional pain is far more grave and agonising than physical pain or violent retaliation. He quotes an anecdote from the Mahabratha. In Indraprastha royals and princes are assembled in the court of Yudishtira for his coronation, when Shishupala in his eagerness to settle an old score publicly abuses Krishna. After a long forbearance and letting Shishupala indulge in his abusive soliloquy, Krishna decides that he had enough of the man’s invectives and let lose his divine Chakra that decapitates the insolent and disgraceful Sishupala. Here the reader must reach his own conclusion. Or is it that my comprehension is puerile?
Now, the plot is well created with this allegory a commendable prescience. The anecdote can be of quoted by Hindutva prudes to unleash their brand of denouement. Recall the treatment meted out to M.F.Hussain, to Narendra Dablokar ( who was shot and killed allegedly by Hindutva goons for critcising the superstitious and inimical customs and practsies ), the fate of Deepa Mehta’s movie “Fire” and lately of the Tamil writer Perumal Murugan. The same yardstick, with which Devudutt Pattnaik would want us to understand the allegory of Shishupala, will be used with different names and periods by beguilers of various faiths. The same phrase, ”hurt sentiments” was used to hound Salman Rushdie and Tasleema Nasreen, the murderous attack on the Kerala professor Joseph by Muslim fanatics, the many government sponsored murders in Pakistan for alleged blasphemy, the hoary cry against the adaptation of Nicholas Kazhanztika’s “Last Temptation of Christ” by a thespian group in Kerala and now the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Today’s newspaper splashes the RSS supremo Mohan Bagwat’s statement in the course of his speech to his cadre that India must be made a “Hindu Rashtra”. True to the trope and the fascist philosophy of the Sangh he also alluded to some statement of Rabindranath Tagore to substantiate and garnish relevance to his demand.
Let me take up a statement in the article Of Devdutt Pattnaik. “Will there be a march where people identify themselves with Charlie’s killers? Is that allowed? Who are the killers? Muslims, bad- Muslims, Mad- Muslims, un-Islamic Muslims? The editorials are undecided, as in the attack in Peshawar on school children…. .” The statement, I will say is deficient and outright naïve, to put it politely. Who is undecided about the macabre acts in Peshawar? Not the civilised world. Not the conscientious among Pakistanis and Muslims. Not the satanic non-Muslim world. Then, who? Every righteous man and woman bled hearing the gory tale and seeing the visuals on media.
It will be cruelness of abysmal proportion to say the Peshawar carnage was the karma of the, innocent children mowed down by the Taliban. To say that the Taliban did that because of the intangible pain they felt when the Pak military did what any modern democratic institution in the civilised world should do, go after fascists and terrorists who are wreaking havoc on the civil society. It was plain and outright barbaric madness. What was the intangible pain the Taliban felt that they had to shoot the teen aged girl Malala in the head and leave her bleeding to die? Was it her karma that she wanted to study, to go to school? The mayhem Islamic terrorist under the banner “Boko Haram” inflicts on helpless people is not borne out of tangible or intangible scars Boko Haram may have had to bear. The 200 girls abducted months ago by the savages and possibly used as sex slaves or killed after raping them have not any tangible karma behind them to bear the misfortune that befell them. What bizarre theory is Devdutt Pattnaik endevaouring to convey?
When it comes to matters of bigotry, fanaticism and blinded faith there are no boundaries and the demon has the same face, be it in Peshawar, Paris, or Timbuktu- unwillingness and refusal to recogonise and respect differences of opinion, and varied cultural ethos; intolerance and bigotry.
Confusing the whole issue of the Paris attack allegedly provoked by lawful French journalistic work is missing the wood for the trees. Raising impertinent questions he is only helping to confuse and deflect from the larger aspect and perspective terror has brought to the forefront-the question of journalistic expression & rights and the imbecility of a hypersensitive impetuous minds. Let us take the example of the Tamil writer Perumal Murugan. This is the classic case of political one-upmanship, mass intolerance and whipping of frenzy with the oft quoted phrase, “hurt sentiments”. The local Administration stands culpable and responsible for Perumal Morgan’s literary suicide. To see mass intolerance and herd instinct as reflections of hurt sentiment is naïve. Take the question of Devadasi. The Hindus will be crying foul if someone writes about this abhorrent practice, which in spite of the Supreme Court ruling thrives in pockets, aided and abetted by caste Hindus. William Darlymple dealt deftly with the subject in his book “Nine Lives”. It is surprising that the Hindutva cronies led by Togadias and Deendayal Batras have not noticed that yet. If someone criticises the period in ancient India and Hindu history when “sati” – the bride burning in funeral pyre of her husband was a social custom, will he or she be causing intangible pain to the faithful?
To say emotional pain is ignored for physical violence is untrue. Look, even courts take cognisance of mental; trauma and pain .A physical assault of rape is not judged merely by the act of penetration alone, and is deemed to be committed if the victim is truamatised and hounded emotionally by the perpetrator. Leaving these matters aside and the deflections created by abracadabra of “Maya and Karma”, we have to understand that certain sections of society refuse to shed the medieval mindset and are paranoid at the sign of questions and evidences rubbishing archaic notions and claims. The problem is the temperament of the dark ages that refuses to leave – the temperament that binds and cloisters itself in bigotry and obscurantism.
In Kerala there is an ancient art form called “Chakkiar Koothu”. The performer donned in colourful costumes and paint comes on stage and narrates a story. He might at random pick even the King or the peasant from the audience and spin a satirical tale, mocking their idiosyncrasies. The King is not offended let alone the commoner. The musical art form of “Ottam Thulla” was born out of such a mockery by a Chakkiar of his protégé or help.
Questions have to be asked, however unpleasant we need to confront them and arrive at plausible answers. It could be an answer that might chafe us and threaten the cocoon, the comfort zone we built around, it might provoke. But if the end result is a better understanding and a new revelation, the casting aside of darkness, what we until then erred for light- wouldn't that help much?
It seems the so called religious faithful and puritans (sic) have asserted through the article of Devdutt Pattnaik that when it comes to protecting the outlandish and archaic religious beliefs and practices, the prelates, the evangelists, the Imams, the Mullahs and the Hindutva brigade are all brothers in arms and of the same womb.
Why is a caricature offensive? Why should it be seen so? In fact caricature is used to convey a dissenting message a different perspective. Isn’t it? BTW did God arise and tell one of these faithful that he (certainly can’t be she because aren't women inferior?), that he is pained and outraged by questions and criticisms?
(Dr Devdutt Pattnaik is a physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist and author whose focus largely are on areas of myth and mythology besides management. He has written number of books on Hindu mythology.( Wikiepedia)).