We don't need custodians like the Bajrang Dal

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 29, 2014 22:43 IST

There is little that will not offend the sensibilities of some of our Right-wing Hindu groups these days. From books to films, nothing it would seem escapes their censorious eyes. The latest to attract the ire of the Bajrang Dal is a Bollywood film PK, which has apparently hurt Hindu feelings. Now it is entirely understandable that a film could arouse anger for its handling of sensitive issues, in this case Hinduism. But, instead of countering it with argument and reason, the Bajrang Dal has attacked cinemas in Ahmedabad and Bhopal showing the film. They have damaged property and have taken to the streets to halt the screening of the film. This is intolerance at its worst. The film has cleared the censor board, which presumably did not find anything offensive in it. This is of a piece with protests against the depiction of Hindu gods by artists or academic works on Hinduism.

It was not long ago that a Hindutva-minded scholar forced the publishers to pulp a seminal work on Hinduism by renowned academic Wendy Doniger. The Bajrang Dal has no business to decide what the appropriate manner is in which to discuss Hinduism in any forum. They have a right to protest but certainly not to be violent. In the case of Doniger, the protests appeared to have been undertaken by those who had never read the work. This limited worldview and intolerance are an insult to a great religion known for its accommodative, inclusive and eclectic nature. Hinduism does not need custodians like the Bajrang Dal, which is clearly doing nothing more than seeking its 15 minutes of inglorious fame. But, the State cannot stand back and allow these people to destroy public property and act as censors for society. Hinduism is certainly not threatened by a film which questions organised religion. It would appear that these fringe groups are actively seeking reasons to object, create a public disturbance and destroy property. They should be put behind bars and the State must throw its full might behind the right to screen this film and others like it which may not meet with the approval of these groups.

The freedom of expression is guaranteed to all Indians and they are free to exercise this in the form of any public offering, be it books, art or cinema. A firm political message has to be delivered to these miscreants acting in the name of religion. Only this will stop these intolerant self-styled custodians of culture and religion in their tracks.

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