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Baroda Protest

Zealots Redefine Hinduism

In these days of globalization and open market culture, a minority within Hinduism shows the world that they still have the potential to take this country back to dark ages. Uma Nair feels that to prevent these zealots from atrocities and to safeguard our freedom, we need to develop global and local mechanisms.

M.F.Husain's exile is something that all of us should be deeply ashamed about. The Baroda issue of the artist Chandramohan being sent to prison by Hindu hardliners sets the tone for a  country's lamentable history, in which religion spins fury, emitting acts like sparks, enraged, saved from choking on the absurdities that we have been called to witness only by the irresistible need to be amazed at them.

If words could catch the contagion of the hardliners’ annealing vehemence. They also provide a clue, certainly unintended, to the weaknesses of fanaticism in the name of religion.
Ravaging through an artist's viewpoint –is the massacre of  politics, history, culture, obsessions and its human defaults and human superabundance – its sad that bigots flare and circumscribe their subjects like a back-burn set to contain a blaze. They fix reality by using extremities of feeling and a savage exactness of image. In speaking about religion and finding ridiculous theories to spurt a devastating drama, the wildness of intent has nothing to contain; it feeds off itself. There are no real protagonists to whom barbarism can attach; only a series of grotesque masks performing a loosely assembled allegory in the name of Hinduism.

Then in what way is one religion different from the other? Is religion in today's world a retrospective dystopia that looks for a slim chance to present the shiver of prophecy? Despite the teachings of peace it seems as if religion today touches largely a series of coarse tableaus..
From removing fig leaves on Italian masterpieces to censoring films in Hong Kong to protecting antiquities in Israel, culture the world over provokes heated debate.

In some ways it takes me back to 1993 when Chinese Government censors allowed the internationally acclaimed Chinese film "Farewell to My Concubine" to resume public showings but, the state censorship bureau warned that it would continue to ban any films that put the Communist system in a bad light. In China Party leaders believe art should glorify and not inform. In many ways we Indians are the same. A high premium is placed on shock value, with frequent references to sex, violence, bodily functions, celebrity, consumerism and power.

Globalization and fanaticism seem to be strange bed mates. Chandramohan incident at Baroda provokes us to consider alternatives to global cultural defensiveness lest it result in widespread cultural and ethnic fanaticism. Of course we need an endorsement of a universal ethic of freedom to replace the universal interests of conglomerates and superpowers, the so called religious bigots need to put their pens and minds precisely on what is missing in the globalization movement. We need global as well as local mechanisms to safeguard basic freedom. Access to the art markets becomes the new fanaticism driving the advancing monoculture. It is called religious sycophancy. Where is the peace that Hinduism once proclaimed to touch and soothe a million souls?


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