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Charlie Hebdo and lessons for intolerant India

January 08, 2015 13:04 IST

Rise up for the right to offend.

Let there be no holy cow, person, religion, ideology that cannot be criticised, ridiculed, parodied, lampooned.

That's what differentiates you from the bigots who entered Charlie Hebdo, says Mango Indian.

"Can you write against the government?" the Belgian scientist asked. We were having lunch outside the Kanha National Park, and introductions had just happened.

I could criticise the government freely, I told him, but pressure from the corporate world was actually more on journalists in India.

At that, the father of three had said something that flashed in my head on Wednesday as the blood from the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo splattered all over my screens.

"That is what defines a society; the lines it draws for journalists."

The attack on Charlie Hebdo makes clear that criticising or parodying Islam is one such line.

With the virtual world becoming more and more entangled in our daily realities, it also underscores that in this new era of lone -- or in this case, pack -- wolf terrorist, no one is safe. Any nut job with an Internet connection can 'avenge' whatever offence needs avenging in his twisted brain.

Among the outpouring of shock and disgust at the mad Islamists' carnage, there have been shades of victim-blaming, including from the Financial Times, and Kiran Bedi.

They are also attempts at drawing don't-cross lines.

If your faith -- or a religion, country, political party, leader, or whatever -- depends on a blemish-free-rosy depiction of it, you have a problem.

And if you ponder over the lessons for India from the attack on Charlie Hebdo, unfortunately, that problem is a rising one.

Painting an Indian monarch -- or a certain family -- in less than glowing colours can get you killed.

With WhatsApp at his disposal, the bigot doesn't have to physically deface a statue to instigate killings. A few lines on a 'revered figure' is all it takes. And as a techie from Pune found out, even not being involved is sometimes not any protection.

And to all those singing 'We told you so about Muslims' after the Paris attack, please read Nicholas Kristof's excellent column (external link)in The New York Times, ponder over Narendra Dabholkar's life, and M F Husain's death in exile.

And ask yourself whether a publication like Charlie Hebdo -- which showed French President Francois Hollande with his penis out when his affair was revealed -- would be allowed in India, where Praveen Swami has gone from national security guru to traitor in the span of two news reports that differ from the government's version of the 'terror boat' from Pakistan.

So rise up for the right to offend. Let there be no holy cow, person, religion, ideology that cannot be criticised, ridiculed, parodied, lampooned.

That's what differentiates you from the bastards who entered Charlie Hebdo.

Image courtesy: @KrewinkelKrijst/Twitter

Mango Indian