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Obscenity case slammed against Arundhati Roy

George Iype lately in Pathanamthitta

Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things has stirred up a raging debate on obscenity in her home state of Kerala, thanks to her description of a sexual encounter between the novel's Syrian Christian protagonist, Ammu, and a Hindu untouchable man, Velutha.

"Inside of the legs" and "dark triangle" are some of the erotic images with which Roy describes the sexual union between the upper caste Ammu and the low-caste Velutha in her internationally acclaimed bestseller.

But critics in the Syrian Christian community in Kerala find these descriptions "repulsive, demeaning and offensive to their sense of public decency."

Santheesh Chandra Babu As a result, Roy will appear before first class judicial Magistrate Santheesh Chandra Babu of central Kerala's Pathanamthitta district, on August 19 to defend her literary debut against charges of obscenity.

Sabu Thomas, the lawyer who has dragged Roy to court, says the sexual passages in the novel are an affront to Indian tradition, culture and morality. "Moreover, it deeply hurts the Syrian Christian community on whom is the novel based," Thomas told Rediff On The NeT.

Thomas, who has submitted the controversial, 'offensive pages' to the judge, says the sexual deeds described in the book will corrupt readers minds.

'The influence of the book on our contemporary society cannot be overlooked especially when much publicity has been given by the author through various interviews in the media,' the petition says, adding that Roy is 'inviting the public to read and enjoy obscenity' in her novel.

Quoting extensively from the novel, the petition says the novel was written to 'excite sexual desires and lascivious thoughts.'

Thomas also contends that the novel contains scenes of violence and a detailed description of a sexual assault on a young boy.

The God of Small Things deals with the upheaval in a feudal Syrian Christian household of central Kerala's Kottayam district. Therefore, conservative Christians in the state feel the sexual descriptions are an insult to the community.

"The novel is a fine literary work. But it has heavy sexual overtones that hurt our community's feelings," says Mathew Tharakan, a businessman in Kottayam. According to Tharakan, Roy has taken the liberty to write these offending passages "because she knows we are a very peaceful community who will not come out in the open on the issue."

Varghese Thuruthel, a rubber planter in the district, agrees. "Roy has added the obscene passages in her novel with a commercial motive. I find the sexual narrative repulsive." He wants the offending portion deleted from the book.

But Roy's mother, the wellknown Kottayam-based educationist Mary Roy, says the passages in the novel will not corrupt readers minds. "The novel became great not because of the tiny portion of sex scenes in it, but because of its superb portrayal of life," she told Rediff On The NeT.

Mary Roy believes her daughter is being dragged to court because the petitioner might be a rigid, closed person. "My daughter will win the case because, in India, a writer's freedom is much respected," she added.

The controversial extract: The passages are sexually explicit and may offend readers's sensibilities.

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