ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Blasphemers

What lies behind the rise of nationalist and religious censors?

In the mid-1980s, when the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was busy placating the growing assertiveness of the Sangh parivar in the hope of cementing the “Hindu support” he had received in the 1984 polls after the Sikh killings, he sought to balance the scales by making some concessions to Muslim fundamentalism. He first neutralised the Supreme Court’s Shah Bano judgment on maintenance for Muslim divorcees and then imposed a ban on the import of Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses. More than two decades later, the march to power in Uttar Pradesh (UP) of Rajiv Gandhi’s son and prime minister aspirant, Rahul Gandhi, is sought to be helped by stoking the same controversy using similar means.

It should not be forgotten that the Madani family of UP, which controls the Darul Uloom Deoband and first made an issue of Rushdie’s presence at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), has traditionally been close to the Congress Party and that it was the senior-most police official in Congress-ruled Rajasthan who concocted a mafia/terrorist threat to Rushdie to scare him off. The extent of political corruption and the complicity of formally neutral state institutions in pushing vested political interests is mindboggling. That the issue was not the security threat to Salman Rushdie but rather the political message the Congress wanted to convey in election-bound UP became clear when Rushdie was not even allowed to speak via videoconference facilities.

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