Tuesday, March 4, 2008

With due respects Mr Pratap Bhanu Mehta, but you're a hypocrite

Yesterday IE had an editorial belaboring about freedom of speech, and today this completely biased article by Pratap Bhanu Mehta on the same topic.

Mr Mehta is liberally selective in recalling cases, what he believes to be, concerned with freedom of speech.

Cases that rankle him most: Shivaji by James Laine; Dharmakaarana by P V Narayana; ABVP's objection to essay by Ramanujan(not the mathematician); objection to Jodha Akbar; and (nude) paintings (of Hindu Godesses) by M F Hussain.

While conveniently ignoring his own hypocrisy, which is apparent from looking at his case list, he accuses ABVP of obtuseness regarding their behavior in Ramanujan case, and sees duplicity in BJP's defense of Taslima Nasrin.

The cases that he conveniently, and deliberately so, forgets:
  • Islamic prophet Mohammed's cartoons published by Danish paper Jyllands Posten;
  • withdrawal of film Meenaxi by M F Hussain;
  • hounding of Taslima Nasrin by Islamofascists in Hyderabad, and in Kolkata by Bengal's Marxist rulers;
  • ban and death call on Salman Rushdie;
  • million dollar bounty on Danish cartoonists by a Haj-going muslim minister Yakoob Qureshi of UP;
  • threats of acid throwing on women refusing to wear burkas in Kashmir by Asiya Andarbi of Dukhtaran e millat(daughters of Islamic nation);
  • ban on Da vinci code film by secular parties in Tamilnadu, Andhra, Kerala because Christians are 'offended' ;
  • ban on Dwikhandito in Bengal by CPI(M);
  • objections and calls of ban(?) on the novel Aavarana by S L Bhyrappa;
We can go on and on citing examples that Mr Mehta clearly is uncomfortable with, and finds unsuitable to mention.

None, not one of these registered on Mr Mehta's mind, nor does it figure anywhere in his tortuous jeremiad.

We have to wonder if Mr Mehta wants to be taken seriously at all, what with the gushing intellectual dishonesty that's all too apparent in his article.

Or, does he think that his opponents are going to ignore the cavil acquiescence of his intellectual tribe to Muslim and Christian acts of intolerance of freedom of speech and expression. Not only is he guilty of ignoring the root cause of what he sees as 'intolerance,' but also can he be reasonably accused to have been complicit in condoning the bigotry of minority groups. His cop out on the Danish cartoon controversy was telling. It was also then that most of his fellow travelers lost their moral right to speak with authority on freedom of expression.

Perhaps his intention is only to imprint selective cases on public conscienc, for he's too smart to understand that informed people won't be taken in by such partisan outrage. If so, that's quite unbecoming of an academic.


Anonymous said...

Only one point. Mr. Mehta has written extensively on the Taslima Nasreen Case, arguing for her rights as much as he has done for James Laine. He does not need to cover every instance in each article.

socal said...

Quite fair. But then Mr Mehta's argument is for a secular attitude towards freedom of speech, but his article has some serious lacunae towards his objective.

Secularism is supposed to be inclusive, while Mr Mehta is unsually charitable in singling out instances involving Hindu groups.

It is also puzzling as to how a good argument can be made by sidestepping instances that are in high on public memory. The Danish cartoons of Mohammed and Taslima Nasrin case are high-profile cases involving serious violation of freedom of speech. One cannot help but question Mr Mehta's omission, since that omission forces a suspicious take on his sincerity.