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India: writers and intellectuals have come to Ananthamurthy’s defence - Statement from the PEN Delhi + news report

23 September 2013

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PEN DelhiFreedom to read, Freedom to write, Freedom to express

In Support of Professor UR Ananthamurthy: Statement from the PEN Delhi Centre

September 21, 2013

Professor UR Ananthamurthy, the highly respected Kannada writer, has been harshly attacked for expressing his considered opinion of Mr Narendra Modi, who is a prime ministerial candidate in the forthcoming elections. Some of these attacks have been made by leaders of the BJP, who have called Mr Ananthamurthy “undemocratic” for criticizing Mr Modi.

Some links:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/modi-is-a-bully-he-creates-cowards-says-ananthamurthy/article5150916.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/despite-bjp-protests-ananthamurthy-sticks-to-his-stand-on-modi/article5148063.ece

http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=810716

Such attacks are not unusual; over the past decade, several Indian writers, artists, film-makers and ordinary citizens have been attacked and sometimes threatened by interest groups and political supporters from almost all of the country’s major parties, for acts of political criticism. All of us at the newly established PEN Delhi Centre would like to say that Mr Ananthamurthy does not stand alone, and nor do any members of the literary community who have faced threats for exercising their right to free expression. Criticising any leader, political party or indeed any institution is both a democratic right and part of an artist’s right to interrogate the world that he or she inhabits.

We believe that Mr Ananthamurthy and other Indian writers, as well as all Indian citizens, should be free to express their opinions of the political system, or individual politicians. We ask Indian politicians, across all parties, to actively support the discussion, debate and criticism so necessary to our democracy, and to cease what has become a tradition of attacks on India’s creative community.

And we stand together, as writers from all across India, to support Mr Ananthamurthy’s right to critical engagement, and to urge those political parties who disagree with his views to express their disagreement with civility, without violence or abuse. Every writer, and every citizen of India must be free to speak with honesty, and without fear, about the politicians who expect to represent the people.

- signed, Members of the PEN Delhi Centre

About the PEN Delhi Centre:

John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, welcomed the new PEN Delhi Centre: “Creating a PEN Centre in Delhi recognizes the importance and the complexity of Indian literature, of language rights and of the pressures on free expression. The writers and publishers of this part of India have a major role to play at the international level in strengthening PEN’s role.”

The new PEN Centre in Delhi was formally recognized at the annual PEN Congress in Reykjavik, September 2013, where the writer Kiran Desai introduced the Centre and spoke about its aims. (See below.) The PEN Delhi Centre includes writers and publishers from all across Delhi and India, who work in several Indian languages including English.

We are delighted to announce PEN’s first list of members, and hope that this will grow to include many more writers, translators, editors and literary professionals. It would not have been possible to start the PEN Delhi Centre without their active support and encouragement:

Anjum Hasan, Arunava Sinha, Benyamin, Chiki Sarkar, David Davidar, Devangshu Datta, Gauri Gill, Girish Karnad, Irfan Habib, Karthika VK, Kiran Desai, Leila Seth, Mahmood Farooqui, Mamang Dai, Meenakshi Ganguly, Nayantara Sahgal, Nikhil Mehra, Nikhil Pahwa, Nilanjana Roy, Nirmala Lakshman, Mukul Kesavan, Rachna Davidar, Ravi Singh, Romila Thapar, Shovon Chowdhury, Sudeep Chakravarti, Thomas Abraham, Vikram Seth.

The need for an organisation in India that connects writers in order to both celebrate the word and protect its free expression has been strongly felt. Writers who join the global PEN International community believe that literature knows no frontiers, and that PEN stands for “the principle of unhampered transmission of thought” within each nation and between all nations.

To read the PEN Charter: http://www.pen-international.org/pen-charter/

SEE ALSO:

The Hindu
BANGALORE, September 19, 2013

Writers come out in support of Ananthamurthy

Muralidhara Khajane

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party functionaries are increasing the intensity of their attack on Jnanpith Award winner U.R. Ananthamurthy for his critical remark against Narendra Modi, the party’s prime ministerial candidate, writers and intellectuals have come to the litterateur’s defence.

BJP’s State general secretary C.T. Ravi on Tuesday described Dr. Ananthamurthy as “parasite-like” who sways according to the political climate of the day. On Wednesday, party spokesperson Ayanur Manjunath compared the writer with Bollywood actor Poonam Pandey who declared that she would strip if the Indian team won the 2011 World Cup.

While Dr. Ananthamurthy has said that he would rather not react to such comments, the intellectual community has not taken kindly to the remarks of Mr. Manjunath.

“Statements of the BJP leaders is highly condemnable and shows the poor taste of the so-called protectors of culture,” said chairman of Cultural Policy Committee set up by the State government, Baragur Ramachandrappa, at whose book release function Dr. Ananthamurthy aired his views on Mr. Modi.

Dr. Ananthamurthy’s remarks were being quoted out of context, said Dr. Ramachandrappa. “When Dr. Ananthamurthy said in the function that he could not live in a country with Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister, he presented both Gandhian and Nehruvian models of development and secular ideals. He said that Mr. Modi did not have either a Gandhian outlook or the historical conscience of Nehru,” he said.

Noted theatre personality and writer K. Marulasiddappa said: “The BJP is twisting Dr. Ananthamurthy statement. It appears like the BJP leaders are hell bent on exterminating those who oppose communal agenda and oppose Mr. Modi.”

Writer G.K. Govinda Rao said the remarks of BJP leaders show that they were nervous and not confident of making Mr. Modi the Prime Minister. While dubbing Dr. Ananthamurthy’s remark as “sentimental and childish”, the former president of Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Chandrashekar Patil, said that people had to fight against Mr. Modi “rather than leave the battleground half way.”