Oppose Attempts to Ban Salman Rushdie
The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) strongly condemns the move by the Rajastan state government with the approval of the central government to prevent the visit of Salman Rushdie to participate in the Jaipur Literary Festival, in the inaugural session of which he had attended in 2007. This is done in the name of an unlawful fatwa issued by an Islamic fundamentalist institution when the state and central governments are duty bound to protect the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression. One may not agree with what Salman Rushdie says. But even as the Supreme Court of India has underlined, the government has to protect his right to freedom of expression. It is a shame that following the Ayatollah Khomeni’s infamous fatwa of 1989 the government of India had proscribed Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. Even then Salman Rushdie has been in India many times in recent years and holds a PIO (person of Indian origin) card allowing him to enter India without a visa. In spite of this, the ridiculous arguments given by the Rajasthan government now that due to law and order problems the organizers should withdraw the invitation to him is absolutely ridiculous and should be condemned by all democratic forces.
It is clear that the Congress party, so also other parties including BJP, are trying to utilize this issue for their sectarian interests of vote bank politics in the UP elections. By pampering the fundamentalist forces while one section tries to get support of the religious minorities in the elections, pointing it out the other section tries to get support of those of the majority religion.. It is because of these communal appeasement policies of the UPA government, the Hindutva Parivar and the BJP in the states where it is in power are emboldened to pursue communalization policies like the forced ‘Surya Nmaskar’ in MP schools and such other practices with immunity. In this way both majority and minority religious fundamentalists are strengthened by the communal appeasement policies of central and state governments.
Such communally motivated calls and the way the ruling class parties pander to such calls show how bigoted and religiously polarised our so-called “secular” state really is. As a result, many of the best artistic talents were driven out of India with perceived insults to different religions. Mohammed Fida Hussain died in exile due to being driven out of India by the Hindu fundamentalists and even a so-called secular state government like the one led by CPI (M) in Bengal was unable to defend the democratic rights of Tasleema Nasreen.
In such an atmosphere, where banning of books and persons, where restrictions on expression and even on thought, are becoming the order of the day, it is not difficult to see how the Government can have the guts to curb even social networks like Facebook and Google.
We call upon all genuine progressive and democratic forces to defend secular principles by firmly standing against both majority and minority fundamentalisms, and against the Indian state and the ruling class parties pampering both for their sectarian ends, and to intensify the struggle for real democracy with real freedom of expression.
K. N. Ramachandran
General Secretary, CPI(ML)
Dated 19th January, 2012.