'Hinduism is the mother of all religions; communal hatred should not be spread in its name.'
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award last year, writer K P Ramanunni performed spiritual penance at the Kadalayi Sree Krishna temple at Chirakka in Kerala to atone for the crime against an eight-year-old girl in a temple in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir.
Last year, he was threatened that his arm and leg would be cut off if he did not convert to Islam for misleading Muslims through his writings.
His stand on Hindu-Muslim communal harmony has been a constant irritant for extremists on both sides of the ideological and religious divide.
The writer says his act of atonement in the Kerala temple earlier this month was a symbolic act to awaken the consciences of Hindu believers against the misusing of the high values of the religion.
"The tradition of penance is in the nature of Hindu philosophy. I had to continue that tradition to fight communal hatred and uphold the message of harmony," he tells Archana Masih in a telephone conversation from Kozhikode.
What was the thinking behind you undertaking a ritual in a Kerala temple to atone for the Kathua rape?
Hinduism is a great religion. It is about plurality and it is also self critical.
It renews you and makes you pure. The tradition of penance is in the nature of Hindu philosophy.
Rama had to act in accordance with the wishes of the common people. He sent Sita away because he had to fulfil the wishes of the people.
Rama knew that Sita was not impure. After that he was so consumed by guilt of having done injustice to his wife, that he slept on a bare, wooden, cot and stayed away from the pleasures of life.
That was his penance for being forced to commit a mistake.
Bhishmacharya remained silent when Draupadi was humiliated and disrobed because of his commitment to the Kauravas.
He knew what was happening was wrong, but did not speak out and for this he lay on a bed of arrows for 56 days.
This is Hindu tradition and I had to keep that tradition.
Why have you taken upon the onus on yourself for righting the acts that you see as wrong?
Fanaticism is not Hinduism, I am a true Hindu, that's why I am doing all this.
Junaid was killed because of communal hatred just because he was Muslim.
I had to fight communal hatred and uphold the message of harmony.
That is why I gave the Rs 1 lakh amount I had received as award from the Sahitya Akademi to Junaid's mother.
That sin has fallen on all Hindus, so we have to do this to uphold the higher values of Hinduism
Conservatism is on the rise around the world. How is that impacting everyday lives?
All over the world there is a trend that religious principles are being distorted and being used to spread hatred and communalism.
Even worship places are used as centres for committing sin and crime.
Why did you want to do a penance yourself?
The consciences of our Hindu believers should be raised against the misusing of our high values of religion.
The worst example is Kathua, where a small girl was raped and killed in a small temple.
Communal hatred should not be spread in the name of Hinduism because Hinduism is the mother of all religions.
To stir up the conscience of true believers of Hinduism, I have taken this penance.
After Kathua, I had spread this message that true religious people should stand up against this practice.
This is not true Hindu religion. There were others who supported me.
The Kerala Sanskrit Sangh organised this programme, and they are not communal people.
Certain Hindu activists opposed you and you could not complete the ritual.
Some Hindu activists came and said they will not allow me to do it. I can't understand what the is logic behind this.
By trying to stop me, are they trying to justify the Kathua incident?
Even the PM said it was tragic. How can a Hindu say that the Kathua incident was correct?
These people have no Hindu principles, otherwise they should have joined me.
IMAGE: K P Ramaunni. Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff/com
Do you think acts like yours can make a difference?
Many Hindu believers were inspired by this because it was a very powerful symbol, more than making speeches.
By picking a handful of salt, Gandhi did a symbolic act that shook the British empire.
Powerful symbols stir up true believers to stand up against communal people.
This message is spreading in Kerala against poisoning the minds of true believers.
You received a letter last year warning you that your hands would be cut off for your writings. Has that threat died down?
There have been no threats after that letter.
People are generally secular in Kerala. Hindus and Muslims have good relations.
Communal forces on both sides are trying to their best to break that tradition.
We have a history of thousands years of communal harmony.
The Left parties were supporting my ritual, the police gave me protection.
What you did could also be seen as a publicity generating act.
The allegation of publicity can be made against anybody. They can tell a writer that s/he is writing for publicity.
Even if you come outside your room they can say you are coming outside and showing yourself for publicity!
That is a petty argument.
The same ideas are conveyed in my writings. My books contains my ideas and the same ideas I am spreading through my activism.
They are making use of religion for political means. On the other side, Muslim fundamentalists are doing the same.
There is heavy resistance from both sides. Now Muslims say ISIS is not Islam, similarly Hindus say fanaticism is not Hinduism.