Oh, Mr Rushdie! Just get in the queue!

IN Media Freedom | 21/01/2012
The protests against Salman Rushdie's presence at the Jaipur Literary Festival by fundamentalist groups is undemocratic no doubt, but he wasn't the only one targeted.
The movements of other writers, journalists and researchers are continuously restricted in free India. A FREE SPEECH HUB comment.
One of the most extraordinary reactions to writer Salman Rushdie’s decision to stay away from the Jaipur Literary Festival came from the Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband:
"It is a victory of democracy because some Muslim organisations, including Darul Uloom Deoband, had opposed the visit to India in a democratic way," Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani told reporters.
Really? A victory for democracy?
Okay, perhaps we all need to revisit our definition of democracy.
Very simply, in our democracy, the free movement of writers, journalists and researchers is not just restricted but actively prevented.
Let’s take a look at a few instances:
  • Filmmaker Ajay T G was arrested in 2008 under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 for allegedly possessing a letter written by a Maoist.
  • Researcher and Sociology professor Nandini Sunder  and Political Science professor of Delhi University Ujwal Kumar Singh were escorted out of Chhattisgarh on January 1, 2010 ‘for their protection”. Later, Sundar stated that ‘the Chhattisgarh government obviously wants to ensure that no news on their offensive or even on the everyday trauma of villagers reaches outside. Many villages have been depopulated in the south, both due to the immense fear created by Operation Green Hunt and the failure of the monsoons this year'.
·         In January 2010, police detain a film-maker Nishta Jain and journalists Priyanka Borpujari and Satyen Bordoloi in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh – again for their protection!
·         In March 2010, well-known artist M F Husain decided to give up his Indian citizenship because he feared for his safety if he ever had to return to India. He died in London a year later.
·         In July 2010, the movement of journalists was banned in Kashmir, following the imposition of a curfew.
·         In September 2010, Tehelka journalist G Vishnu was detained near Jamshedpur when he was touring the area for a story on nuclear energy.
·         In November 2010, Professor Richard Shapiro, an academic from the United States was denied entry into India without any charges or due process.
·         In May 2011, journalist and writer Gautam Navlakha was detained at Srinagar airport and ‘deported’ back to New Delhi by the next available flight!
·         In September 2011, well-known radio broadcaster David Barsamian was deported from New Delhi airport. He is founder and producer of the renowned Alternative Radio.
·         Anti-nuclear activists in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, are externed from the district by police, despite a High Court order in November 2011 that their movements should not be restrained.
We haven’t even got to the number of journalists killed, attacked or roughed up for being where the state and security forces don’t want them to be. Or the books being banned, the films being censored or the protests over theatre performances.
(Click here to check out our complete listing)
So, Mr Rushdie, shameful as it may seem, welcome to the world’s largest democracy, free speech or free movement be damned!
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