Category: free speech

  • Speaking Volumes: Unfree – what to expect next

    This week’s column will absolutely not sound the alarm on free speech and the future of India’s liberal democracy. That would be like standing up at the RK Puram intersection and announcing that the air in Delhi feels a trifle murky these days. Instead, this column will point out gently that democracy is not an […]

  • Speaking Volumes: Into the abyss

    Speaking Volumes: Into the abyss

    One of the few joys of researching blasphemy, a crime with increasingly bleak consequences for those found guilty of it, is that it’s a fine excuse for watching a Satanist rocker for a Polish death metal band spin his hair expertly as he belts out the lyrics to ‘Christians To The Lions’. In September 2007, […]

  • How India’s writers are fighting intolerance

    How India’s writers are fighting intolerance

    In the BBC, 13th October 2015: “A month-and-a-half later, the murder of this scholar has set off an unusual movement with little precedent. Writers from across the country are standing up in protest against the Sahitya Akademi, a literary body that represents 22 of India’s languages, and the state. ‘Suppression and violence’ On 12 September, […]

  • Murder, and a revolt in the Akademi

    Murder, and a revolt in the Akademi

    (On the morning of August 30, 2015, the scholar and former Karnataka University vice-chancellor MM Kalburgi was murdered in his home in Dharwad; he had opened the door to his assailants; his family heard gunshots and found him dead. He had received death threats in 2014 and 2015 over comments he had made at a […]

  • Speaking Volumes: Unequal Murders

    “Those who killed, killed in the open. Thugs committed their thuggery in the public eye, with a spring in their step. .. A dark, frightening cloud of reality had descended, one that no one had expected.” Uday Prakash, ‘Mangosil’, The Walls of Delhi In the 1980s, Kulbir Natt and other journalists chronicled the period in […]

  • “Please leave him alone”: reading Perumal Murugan

    “Please leave him alone”: reading Perumal Murugan

    “Perhaps the only free space we have any more, until these times change, is here, in the private compact between writers and their readers that takes place in the wide, broad-bordered lands inside our own heads. In this land, the offence-takers and the angry protestors have no valid visas and cannot cross the frontiers.”

  • From France to India, Charlie Hebdo and the promise of free speech

    From France to India, Charlie Hebdo and the promise of free speech

    Wrote this in some sadness for the Huffington Post. It was published on January 10, a few days after the murders of the editorial team and others, including bodyguards and police officers, at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. “Responsibility cuts both ways. It is true that you cannot reason with a fundamentalist, of any religion, that […]

  • (Published in the Business Standard, April 30, 2014) In the great city of Varanasi, there lived a weaver of threads and words, who sent out his poems like incendiary drones into the comfortable world of the Kazis and the Brahmins, neither of whom had much liking for Kabir. The weaver’s verses preached the love of […]

  • Speaking Volumes: Emperors, apostates and absences

    (Published in the Business Standard, August 14, 2012) The price Raja Rammohan Roy paid in the early 19th century for expressing his views on Hinduism and sati was not minor. His mother ostracized the Brahmo reformer, and declared that he should not be allowed to inherit family property because he was an ‘apostate’. The Life […]