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The Rediff Special/ Ashok Row Kavi

Expose the Hindu Taliban!

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Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in Fire
This whole business of fighting Fire with fire displays the ridiculousness of the Indian concept of secularism. Just a fortnight ago, that great sarcophagus of secularism, Khushwant Singh, attacked Arun Shourie for the latter ripping apart Marxist historians in the cover-up of Muslim brutality during the medieval era. Not a single fact was refuted, not a single case history denied. It was just plain abuse in the Sardarji's genre.

Now, of course, the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena are paying these secularist fellows back in the same coin. And therein lies the tragedy for the true liberal in India. As a gay activist, journalist, and observer of the social scene, I have always taken a stand that we must allow everything to be published and be damned, if need be, in the bargain. Gods, prophets, holy cows everything must be analysed, dissected and exposed for what it is: a product of human creativity and thought.

But no! Was it not the same Khushwant Singh who proudly stated that he had advised Penguin not to publish Salman Rushdie and now cribs and cries when Arun Shourie writes his venomous verbiage? It was the same Khushwant Singh who upheld Husain's right to depict Saraswati in the nude, but condemned some prankster showing Husain in the nude.

The latest attacks on cinema houses showing Fire is just the latest in the un-Hindu nature of these hotheads. Hinduism, unlike Christianity and Islam, does not view homosexuality as a religious sin. Vikruti Evam Prakriti (diversity is what nature is all about), says the Rig Veda wisely.

But Leviticus in the Old Testament is very clear on homosexuality: 'Thou shall not sleep with a man as thou sleep with a woman.' The punishment is death in both the Torah, and in the Quran. The punishment for "the habits of the people of Lut" (homosexuality) is death by having a wall collapsed on you or be thrown from a great height. This punishment was actually carried out in Afghanistan in February this year. Hence, my suggestion is that the Shiv Sena activists are actually the Taliban who are falsely claiming to be Hindus.

The concept of moksha (salvation) in Hinduism is based on the tripod of Dharma (social duty), Artha (economic productivity) and Kama (sexual activity). There is nowhere any mention of the sexual preference of the human being.

Not only that, but Vatsyayan's Kamasutra has a complete chapter on male-male sex. Chapter six, Auparishtika talks about fellatio (oral sex) between two men in the frankest manner possible.

The temples at both Khajuraho and Konark have extensive panels on homosexuality, male and female, on the same level as heterosexual activity. The Maithunas (couplings) are shown in frank and innocuous intercourse. It was Morarji Desai who wanted them covered with bed-sheets because they were "against Indian culture".

The dialogue must be, therefore, on who is the 'real Hindu' and who is the real inheritor of this 'Indian culture'? My claim is that both the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena are not 'real Hindus' at all; and the secularists must be prohibited from interfering in this argument. I particularly mean organisations like Sahmat and assorted journals pushing the sham secular line.

Let me point out that it was Sahmat which had an insidious panel on a rare version of the Ramayana showing Ram and Sita as siblings. It would have been equally brave on their part to show some unpalatable facts from Prophet Mohamed's life too. But do you see the method in their madness? Kathak dancer Sitara Devi, who was married to the movie mogul K Asif, was so incensed by the panels, that she kept on shouting 'Jai Sri Ram' in sheer disgust during those incendiary times.

Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in Fire
But what is my stand on this issue? It is that each and everything must be allowed to be seen and heard by all who care to do so; even if it is not liked or approved by the majority! Therefore, Shabana Azmi's silly statement that "a small section of society must not be allowed to dictate their terms to the rest" is sheer crap. If a rapid survey were taken of those who have seen the film till now, she might be in for a shock; a majority just might be objecting to the depiction of lesbianism in the film. Does that mean a film or book must be banned if a majority objects? My argument is that even if a majority objects, then, too, it should not be or must not be banned.

Shabana and her lot are also playing a clever game. This is not a pluralistic society. This is a society where 80 per cent of the people are Hindus and it remains pluralistic precisely because it is predominantly Hindu. And the very fact that it is Hindu dominated is the very reason why we insist that the pluralism will be maintained and defended. And it will be defended by the Hindus.

This is the stand I took during the Salman Rushdie controversy and during the turbulent tamasha over the publishing of Ambedkar's Riddles of Ram. People like Khushwant Singh or Shabana Azmi or the secular brigade have lost the battle for freedom of expression if they didn't stand up for it when they needed to stand up and be counted.

It's time for Hindus, as Hindus, to stand up and expose the Taliban masquerading as Hindus.

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