Satire is not slander

Mamata Banerjee has gone nuts.

What do you think the chances are that I get into trouble for saying the above? A professor of Chemistry at Jadavpur university has been arrested for sending an email with a cartoon depicting Mamata Banerjee and her heavy-handed way of dealing with ideas she doesn’t like.

You may remember that she banned English (and even some high-circulation Bengali) newspapers from state-aided libraries in Bengal. The official reasoning was that reading the eight periodicals mentioned in a circular would “significantly contribute to the development and spread of free thinking among the library users.” Free thinking. Except about which newspaper to read.

The cartoon in this case is the following (reproduced from the Hindustan Times page. Click through to go to the page):

The 'cartoon' that led to JU professor's arrest. From top to bottom: 1. Mamata Banerjee points to Indian Railways' logo and tells Mukul Roy: See Mukul, the Golden Fortress; 2. Mukul Roy points to former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi and exclaims: That's an evil man!!!; 3. Mamata says: Evil man, vanish!

The cartoon isn’t even all that funny. The cartoon apparently uses dialogue from a Satyajit Ray movie, so perhaps it is to somebody who is Bengali and knows about the connection. The biggest thing the cartoon has going for it is that Mamata Banerjee apparently has all the sense of humour of a groundnut, and simply can’t stop herself from banning things and getting people arrested.

And her lackeys ministers will obviously fall in line. ‘Both labour minister Purnendu Bose and transport minister Madan Mitra defended the police action, saying the e-mail was in bad taste.’ They must think the cartoon is accurate. Some TMC members of the legislature did say the action of the police was over-reaching, though. Does anybody wonder why they are only MLAs?

And this on the same day that an author has to leave the country because he’s written a biography of Aurobindo that somebody somewhere has a problem with. And on the same day that Raj Thackeray tells the sitting Chief Minister of Bihar that he had better not visit Bombay. (Nitish Kumar apparently retorted that he doesn’t need a visa to visit Bombay.)

As a society, we seem to be collectively going in entirely the wrong direction on the right to free speech.

Update(15/04/2012, 12:45am): Sheila Dixit, the CM of Delhi, has apparently said that Narendra Modi would not dare campaign in Delhi, for fear of getting stoned (not getting stoned, you know, but having stones thrown at him).

8 thoughts on “Satire is not slander”

  1. Indians are a primitive race of people who cannot comprehend such (relatively) sophisticated ideas like freedom of speech, privacy, right to self-determination etc. Either that or they are a bunch of hypocritical scoundrels. Take your pick.

  2. We really do seem to be incapable of understanding that living in a democracy means that ‘I am offended’ cannot be used as an argument, don’t we?

    He said something about Gandhi? Ban his book. He said something about Aurobindo? Force him to leave the country. She said something about how Islam subjugates women? Put her under house-arrest. And then make her leave the country altogether. He wrote a novel that made the Aya-fucking-tollah unhappy? Take the Ayatollah’s side, not the writer’s.

  3. Contemporary Indian society is being increasing characterized by marked intolerance – something I call the tyranny of the Indian middle class. The average Indian is a philistine and a philistine is the worst kind of simple-minded fool you can have, for not only is he a fool, he is also obscene and will persecute you if you dare point that out to him (or God forbid, joke about it).

  4. We are descending into the worst kind of intolerance.Soon we will be at par with totalitarian China without imbibing its better aspects-of economic betterment.
    This is a country of fools, by fools and for fools..

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