Thursday, July 20, 2006

As I am writing this after logging in directly, I can conclude that our sarkar has finally lifted the ban. More interestingly, this blog now has practical experience of the censor insofar as its blocking is concerned. It is fairly humorous that the purpose of this blog has been so ironically highlighted.
Our course may have got over, but the last six months have spawned an embarrassment of riches as far as cases of censorship in India and abroad are concerned. This reiterates the fact that censorship is definitely ( and most worrisomely) active to an unhealthy extent.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Silencing These Lambs

Incestuous Child Sexual Abuse in India and the Social Censorship faced by its victims through the politics of silence and of denial.


Unedited term paper for the Literature and Censorship course.

Introduction

This paper interprets and offers ‘social censorship’ as a representative phrase for all forms of suppression of information and repression of the victim’s voice by general consent of the social institutions to which the victim and the perpetrator of the crime belong.

Censorship is, in essence, a post-facto phenomenon. A text – be it a novel, a magazine, a film or a picture – is censored after it is released in the public domain. In the rare cases of pre-emptive banning, the texts involved are those which follow in the wake of an existing controversy and are more often than not banned on grounds of legal technicalities on that count. Even then, the ban comes into force only after the content of such a text – be it a press-release, a film trailer, a pre-release interview or an abstract of the text – has been made public. Anything less than that would be thought policing because what the world does not know of, it cannot legally ban.

Social censorship (in the indicted sense), however, functions differently. To keep it’s sustaining structures from collapsing, it clamps down on any kind of disclosure of the malfunctions of these institutions. The effort is therefore centred on preventing the information from reaching public domain, so that most instances of the kind of sexual crime under discussion here go unnoticed and certainly unreported. Documented instances and available statistics of Child Sexual Abuse in India, especially those of an incestuous nature, are largely inaccurate. Indeed, going by the number of reported cases, the malady hardly exists; because of course, what the social system cannot silence, it denies.

In 2000, journalist and writer Pinki Virani – self-proclaimed victim of child sexual abuse – wrote Bitter Chocolate , which was and still is touted as the first Indian book to address the issue outside the protective and often vaguely romanticised guise of fiction. This paper takes Bitter Chocolate and the startling statistics it presents as its starting point, and hopes to present incestuous instances of Child Sexual Abuse as valid examples of social censorship and examine the causes thereof.

Also, in concurrence with Virani’s book, this paper accepts Emily Driver and Audrey Droisen’s definition of Child Sexual Abuse as ‘Any sexual behaviour directed at a person under sixteen years of age without that person’s informed consent (my emphasis).’


******
Borrowing Virani’s structure, we commence with a case study :

Ila and Jagdish Pandey lived in Karvi, Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh. In February 1999, their three daughters were eleven, nine and four years old; and the eleven complained of inappropriate affection from her father. Ila confronted her husband and was brutally beaten up, and took quite a while to recover. After her recovery, she fled to her parents with her youngest daughter. Jagadish forcibly retained their two elder daughters.

When three months of constant appeals went unheeded, Ila went back to Karvi and collected her daughters in her husband’s absence. She was supported morally and legally by two non-governmental bodies, the Social Action and Research Centre of Varanasi and Vanangana of Karvi/Chitrakoot. When Jagadish discovered his daughters had been taken away, he, according to the women of Vanangana, threatened them with rape and murder. His brothers filed a First Information Report against three women who aided Ila: Madhavi Kukreja and Huma Khan of Vanangana, and Manju Soni, a local social worker. The FIR listed the women under:

  • Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code (kidnapping or maiming a minor for forcing him or her into begging)
  • Section 366 of the Indian Penal Code (kidnapping, abducting or inducting a woman to end her marriage)
  • Section 380 of the Indian Penal Code (theft in dwelling house)
  • and ironically, Section 387 (putting a person in fear of death and/or grievous hurt for extortion)

All these offences are cognizable and non-bailable. Which means Kukreja, Khan and Soni could have been imprisoned at any time and remained that way.

The media coverage of the affair was revealing. A national news channel interviewed the local police and district officials. During one such interview, an official said: “These things should remain in the family, it should not be encouraged to come out in the open or more people will be influenced to do such things.”
Jagdish’s colleague at the government’s dairy department remarked, “Well, the wife was sick all the time so what is a man to do?”
A judicial official of Chitrakoot said – ‘with a smile’, notes Virani – “Child Sexual Abuse cases are ugly and disgusting. Such things should not be made public.”

In October of that year, Ila and the women who supported her held an unofficial jan sunvaai or ‘public hearing’ of the Pandey case in Karvi, which they hoped would serve as an awareness campaign. The women, however, were surrounded by very large groups of threatening men and members of a student’s body with fundamentalist affiliations, who demanded the arrest of these women because they had destroyed the sanctity of their own homes and sought to urge other women to do the same.

The Pandey case is paradoxically both similar and distinct from such cases of Child Sexual Abuse in India. It displays the hesitancy of the average Indian towards making such matters public and the reluctance to universally see the perpetrator as a criminal. A sexually unresponsive wife is often considered a valid excuse for a man to transfer his attention to the available children of the house. Thus even when his actual act is considered perverse, he is assured of sympathy from those that really matter: his family, his colleagues, possibly even his wife’s family, his neighbours, and unfortunately, the judiciary that tries him. On the other hand, not only is the child-victim (especially if she is a girl) alienated from her immediate society, he or she also runs the risk of being explicitly vilified as a tempter/temptress and initiator of his or her own abuse.

The reason the Pandey case is distinct from most such cases is because Ila broke the mould of the archetypal cowering Indian wife (also a prominent figure in most reported cases) and decided to fight her husband for sole custody of their daughters. Unfortunately, and ironically, it is Ila and her three daughters who have gone into hiding and are still constantly on the run from Jagdish and his family, who seek to reclaim these their four lost ‘properties’, with little sympathy and no help from the administration.

The inadequacy of the judiciary or the police is not, in cases of Child Sexual Abuse within the family, always a wilful one. The Indian Penal Code has so far been unable to furnish the judiciary and the police with a distinct framework for this emerging category, despite even the conservative police speculations conceding that an average of 40% of girls and 25% of boys below the age of sixteen are victims of Child Sexual Abuse. This, incidentally, does not include physical violence against a child, child rape and child prostitution, which the police classify separately. Even then, the violation of a child’s body against its willing and informed consent is not considered rape unless there is evidence of penile penetration. What is truly distressing, however, is the sympathetic view courts take of offers of financial compensation for a girl who is, by almost universal consent, assumed unmarriageable .

In 1997, Sakshi filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to widen the scope of the term ‘sexual intercourse’ to include forced oral sex and object-penetration. The Supreme Court offered certain placatory measures in May 2004, nearly a decade later. The measures were certainly helpful. Victims of rape or abuse cannot now be forced to answer ‘insensitive’ and ‘crude’ questions during the trial. Defence lawyers will have to make a prior submission of all questions to the presiding officers who would then tone down or edit them as they see fit. Also, a screen can now be used so that the victim doesn’t have to directly confront the perpetrator or feel intimidated by him or her. However, Sakshi’s cause remains unfulfilled even today.

As Dr. Neelan Tirchelvam points out , the India Penal Code, drafted by Thomas Babbington Macaulay in two days when he was still a young man of little experience, is in need of immediate revision to accommodate the new social requirements that have developed since 1836.

[…] The second relates to the growing sensitivity to the reproductive health rights of women and the right of an individual to have control over and to decide freely on matters related to her body and to her sexuality. A related concern relates to the health risks to which women are subjected to as a result of unsafe abortions, which threaten the lives, particularly, of the poorest and youngest. A third development relates to the need to be responsive to the alarming incidence of sexual exploitation of children, including the phenomenon of child pornography. Finally, there is a need for the law not to discriminate and punitively deal with persons with different sexual preferences, and to move away from puritanical attempts by the law to legislate morality.

The reason for quoting the second of Tirchelvam’s three new ‘developments’ in the context of Child Sexual Abuse is the alarming rise in teenage (and sometimes even pre-teen) pregnancies in the country. In accordance with the prevalent culture of preservation of family honour through silence, the girls usually undergo painful and unmedical abortions at home, often causing permanent damage to their bodies. The risk of death at childbirth increases manifold for those that try to give birth to their unwanted children, because their bodies and not anatomically mature and equipped to deal with the rigours of pregnancy yet.

Tirchelvam’s last point, addressing the discriminatory attitude faced by homosexuals involves Child Sexual Abuse to quite a large extent as well. Several surveys conducted by functional non-governmental organisations indicate that the abuse of little boys is on the rise. Or perhaps, more realistically, a greater number of young men find themselves capable of stepping out of the masculine image they have been culturally conditioned to inculcate. Amongst the 5,00,000 children that are trafficked annually into prostitution in India , prepubescent boys form a growing section of the groups sent to prominent sites of sex-tourism in the country .

However, the abuse of minors by people of their own sex is not something only foreign tourists indulge in; it is as much a part of India’s secret family traditions as heterosexual abuse is. Virani’s research and interviews reveal that closet homosexuals (especially gay men) abuse children in their family not just because they are convenient, but also in the hope of initiating a few more into their way of life. Sodomy – though usually object-penetration – as a form of punishment and ‘disciplining’ young boys is also prevalent in several places, including gender-specific boarding schools.

Comparatively, lesbian relationships are less physically violent unless they involve a sadistic perpetrator, but the connotation of power born of class hierarchies and the financial ability to employ is much more pronounced in them. Young girls employed as domestic helps also often serve as – to employ a somewhat melodramatic word – sex-slaves, in that they are not offered any gratification in return. Virani’s interviews with married or closeted lesbians show that is quite a common practice: the girls are recruited and then ‘…slowly trained’ till they can satisfy their employers’ sexual needs .

The question, ‘why children?’ has, perhaps, already been answered. Children and their trust are easily available. Indian children, especially, are easily subdued and intimidated by their socially designated ‘elders’. Which also rules out the use of physical strength on behalf of the child. Not only are children naturally weaker than their abusers, the concept of physically challenging an ‘elder’ is alien to most Indian children. Most importantly, however, children are helpless and unable to defend themselves, in more ways than one. To begin with, most children do not understand what is happening to them, and if the experience is pleasurable , they see no reason to complain. However, even if it is not, to express what is being done to it is quite beyond the scope of a child’s language. Children do not, literally, have words to describe what they are going through; and this is discounting the threats and coaxes abused children undergo to keep their little trysts with their abusers secret.
Beyond everything, lies the notion of the sacrosanct Indian construct of the perfect non-violable family. In a brilliant display of destructive irony, the victim’s family allows the continuance (if only passively) of the complete violation of those very values they think they are protecting by refusing to speak out.

However, when we speak of children, which children do we speak of? The emerging pattern from the previous examples are somewhat exclusive (in the reverse sense of the usual use of the term), in that they identify those children who are, in addition to their natural helplessness, also disabled by their social background. Apart from the boys who can afford to go to boarding schools, all children mentioned so far belong to, at best, the middle class and at worst, to those living below the stipulated poverty line.

This, actually, was quite a common perception till the Delhi-based RAHI decided to conduct a survey aimed specifically at financially comfortable women. The 600 women interviewed were English-speaking middle and upper-middle class women from Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai, between 15 and 66 years of age. The following is a brief synopsis of the survey findings:

76% of these women had been sexually abused in their childhood.

Of them:
  • 40% had been abused by at least one family member.
  • 71% had been abused by other relatives and family friends.
  • 2% were abused before they were four years of age.
  • 17% when they were between four and eight years of age.
  • 28% between the age of eight and twelve.
  • 35% between twelve and sixteen years.

Another survey, conducted in Bangalore in 1996 by Anita Ratnam, Lucy Kumar, Dr. Arun Kotenkar and Dr. Shekhar Sheshadri (India’s first specialist in Child Sexual Abuse) for the NGO Samvada among 348 female students from eleven school and colleges is now considered a landmark in the history of documenting Child Sexual Abuse in India. If the previous survey indicates the number and age of the victims, this survey revealed what was done to them. The statistics of this survey are as follows :

83% of the girls interviewed had been the targets of Child Sexual Abuse.

  • 13% of this group were also visually harasses before they were ten years old.
  • 47% had been molested, 15 of them before they were ten, by male relatives, often for masturbation.
  • 15% had been raped, forced into oral sex and penetrated with foreign objects. 31% of this group, before they were ten years old. 75% of the abusers were adult family members.
  • Roughly 50% percent of the molestations happened within the children’s homes.

However, an often-neglected effect of being molested or of watching or being forced to watch pornographic material (all of which come under the premise of Child Sexual Abuse) is the rape or molestation perpetrated by children on children. In some cases, it is merely imitative behaviour. However, more frequently, it is the sign of a prematurely sexualized child doing to weaker Others what has been, or is being, done to him. Virani cites the case of three pre-teen boys gang-raping their seven-year-old female neighbour in Calcutta on the 12th of February, 2000. A similar incident happened in Krishna Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, where the boy wanted to ‘see what it was alike’. An eleven-year-old boy from Hyderabad mutilated his nine-year old sister so savagely that she bled profusely throughout the day. They were playing ‘doctor’. Perhaps tellingly, perhaps not, their father is a child specialist.

And these children, forcibly made to internalise their trauma by a society that simply will not allow the idealised notion of its most basic device of control ,the family, to collapse, will soon grow up, and possibly, have children of their own.

Given our collective talent at forcibly obliterating all proofs of an insistent presence we would rather not acknowledge, one shudders at the prospect.

Silencing These Lambs

Incestuous Child Sexual Abuse in India and the Social Censorship faced by its victims through the politics of silence and of denial.


Unedited term paper for the Literature and Censorship course.

Introduction

This paper interprets and offers ‘social censorship’ as a representative phrase for all forms of suppression of information and repression of the victim’s voice by general consent of the social institutions to which the victim and the perpetrator of the crime belong.

Censorship is, in essence, a post-facto phenomenon. A text – be it a novel, a magazine, a film or a picture – is censored after it is released in the public domain. In the rare cases of pre-emptive banning, the texts involved are those which follow in the wake of an existing controversy and are more often than not banned on grounds of legal technicalities on that count. Even then, the ban comes into force only after the content of such a text – be it a press-release, a film trailer, a pre-release interview or an abstract of the text – has been made public. Anything less than that would be thought policing because what the world does not know of, it cannot legally ban.

Social censorship (in the indicted sense), however, functions differently. To keep it’s sustaining structures from collapsing, it clamps down on any kind of disclosure of the malfunctions of these institutions. The effort is therefore centred on preventing the information from reaching public domain, so that most instances of the kind of sexual crime under discussion here go unnoticed and certainly unreported. Documented instances and available statistics of Child Sexual Abuse in India, especially those of an incestuous nature, are largely inaccurate. Indeed, going by the number of reported cases, the malady hardly exists; because of course, what the social system cannot silence, it denies.

In 2000, journalist and writer Pinki Virani – self-proclaimed victim of child sexual abuse – wrote Bitter Chocolate , which was and still is touted as the first Indian book to address the issue outside the protective and often vaguely romanticised guise of fiction. This paper takes Bitter Chocolate and the startling statistics it presents as its starting point, and hopes to present incestuous instances of Child Sexual Abuse as valid examples of social censorship and examine the causes thereof.

Also, in concurrence with Virani’s book, this paper accepts Emily Driver and Audrey Droisen’s definition of Child Sexual Abuse as ‘Any sexual behaviour directed at a person under sixteen years of age without that person’s informed consent (my emphasis).’


******
Borrowing Virani’s structure, we commence with a case study :

Ila and Jagdish Pandey lived in Karvi, Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh. In February 1999, their three daughters were eleven, nine and four years old; and the eleven complained of inappropriate affection from her father. Ila confronted her husband and was brutally beaten up, and took quite a while to recover. After her recovery, she fled to her parents with her youngest daughter. Jagadish forcibly retained their two elder daughters.

When three months of constant appeals went unheeded, Ila went back to Karvi and collected her daughters in her husband’s absence. She was supported morally and legally by two non-governmental bodies, the Social Action and Research Centre of Varanasi and Vanangana of Karvi/Chitrakoot. When Jagadish discovered his daughters had been taken away, he, according to the women of Vanangana, threatened them with rape and murder. His brothers filed a First Information Report against three women who aided Ila: Madhavi Kukreja and Huma Khan of Vanangana, and Manju Soni, a local social worker. The FIR listed the women under:

  • Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code (kidnapping or maiming a minor for forcing him or her into begging)
  • Section 366 of the Indian Penal Code (kidnapping, abducting or inducting a woman to end her marriage)
  • Section 380 of the Indian Penal Code (theft in dwelling house)
  • and ironically, Section 387 (putting a person in fear of death and/or grievous hurt for extortion)

All these offences are cognizable and non-bailable. Which means Kukreja, Khan and Soni could have been imprisoned at any time and remained that way.

The media coverage of the affair was revealing. A national news channel interviewed the local police and district officials. During one such interview, an official said: “These things should remain in the family, it should not be encouraged to come out in the open or more people will be influenced to do such things.”
Jagdish’s colleague at the government’s dairy department remarked, “Well, the wife was sick all the time so what is a man to do?”
A judicial official of Chitrakoot said – ‘with a smile’, notes Virani – “Child Sexual Abuse cases are ugly and disgusting. Such things should not be made public.”

In October of that year, Ila and the women who supported her held an unofficial jan sunvaai or ‘public hearing’ of the Pandey case in Karvi, which they hoped would serve as an awareness campaign. The women, however, were surrounded by very large groups of threatening men and members of a student’s body with fundamentalist affiliations, who demanded the arrest of these women because they had destroyed the sanctity of their own homes and sought to urge other women to do the same.

The Pandey case is paradoxically both similar and distinct from such cases of Child Sexual Abuse in India. It displays the hesitancy of the average Indian towards making such matters public and the reluctance to universally see the perpetrator as a criminal. A sexually unresponsive wife is often considered a valid excuse for a man to transfer his attention to the available children of the house. Thus even when his actual act is considered perverse, he is assured of sympathy from those that really matter: his family, his colleagues, possibly even his wife’s family, his neighbours, and unfortunately, the judiciary that tries him. On the other hand, not only is the child-victim (especially if she is a girl) alienated from her immediate society, he or she also runs the risk of being explicitly vilified as a tempter/temptress and initiator of his or her own abuse.

The reason the Pandey case is distinct from most such cases is because Ila broke the mould of the archetypal cowering Indian wife (also a prominent figure in most reported cases) and decided to fight her husband for sole custody of their daughters. Unfortunately, and ironically, it is Ila and her three daughters who have gone into hiding and are still constantly on the run from Jagdish and his family, who seek to reclaim these their four lost ‘properties’, with little sympathy and no help from the administration.

The inadequacy of the judiciary or the police is not, in cases of Child Sexual Abuse within the family, always a wilful one. The Indian Penal Code has so far been unable to furnish the judiciary and the police with a distinct framework for this emerging category, despite even the conservative police speculations conceding that an average of 40% of girls and 25% of boys below the age of sixteen are victims of Child Sexual Abuse. This, incidentally, does not include physical violence against a child, child rape and child prostitution, which the police classify separately. Even then, the violation of a child’s body against its willing and informed consent is not considered rape unless there is evidence of penile penetration. What is truly distressing, however, is the sympathetic view courts take of offers of financial compensation for a girl who is, by almost universal consent, assumed unmarriageable .

In 1997, Sakshi filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to widen the scope of the term ‘sexual intercourse’ to include forced oral sex and object-penetration. The Supreme Court offered certain placatory measures in May 2004, nearly a decade later. The measures were certainly helpful. Victims of rape or abuse cannot now be forced to answer ‘insensitive’ and ‘crude’ questions during the trial. Defence lawyers will have to make a prior submission of all questions to the presiding officers who would then tone down or edit them as they see fit. Also, a screen can now be used so that the victim doesn’t have to directly confront the perpetrator or feel intimidated by him or her. However, Sakshi’s cause remains unfulfilled even today.

As Dr. Neelan Tirchelvam points out , the India Penal Code, drafted by Thomas Babbington Macaulay in two days when he was still a young man of little experience, is in need of immediate revision to accommodate the new social requirements that have developed since 1836.

[…] The second relates to the growing sensitivity to the reproductive health rights of women and the right of an individual to have control over and to decide freely on matters related to her body and to her sexuality. A related concern relates to the health risks to which women are subjected to as a result of unsafe abortions, which threaten the lives, particularly, of the poorest and youngest. A third development relates to the need to be responsive to the alarming incidence of sexual exploitation of children, including the phenomenon of child pornography. Finally, there is a need for the law not to discriminate and punitively deal with persons with different sexual preferences, and to move away from puritanical attempts by the law to legislate morality.

The reason for quoting the second of Tirchelvam’s three new ‘developments’ in the context of Child Sexual Abuse is the alarming rise in teenage (and sometimes even pre-teen) pregnancies in the country. In accordance with the prevalent culture of preservation of family honour through silence, the girls usually undergo painful and unmedical abortions at home, often causing permanent damage to their bodies. The risk of death at childbirth increases manifold for those that try to give birth to their unwanted children, because their bodies and not anatomically mature and equipped to deal with the rigours of pregnancy yet.

Tirchelvam’s last point, addressing the discriminatory attitude faced by homosexuals involves Child Sexual Abuse to quite a large extent as well. Several surveys conducted by functional non-governmental organisations indicate that the abuse of little boys is on the rise. Or perhaps, more realistically, a greater number of young men find themselves capable of stepping out of the masculine image they have been culturally conditioned to inculcate. Amongst the 5,00,000 children that are trafficked annually into prostitution in India , prepubescent boys form a growing section of the groups sent to prominent sites of sex-tourism in the country .

However, the abuse of minors by people of their own sex is not something only foreign tourists indulge in; it is as much a part of India’s secret family traditions as heterosexual abuse is. Virani’s research and interviews reveal that closet homosexuals (especially gay men) abuse children in their family not just because they are convenient, but also in the hope of initiating a few more into their way of life. Sodomy – though usually object-penetration – as a form of punishment and ‘disciplining’ young boys is also prevalent in several places, including gender-specific boarding schools.

Comparatively, lesbian relationships are less physically violent unless they involve a sadistic perpetrator, but the connotation of power born of class hierarchies and the financial ability to employ is much more pronounced in them. Young girls employed as domestic helps also often serve as – to employ a somewhat melodramatic word – sex-slaves, in that they are not offered any gratification in return. Virani’s interviews with married or closeted lesbians show that is quite a common practice: the girls are recruited and then ‘…slowly trained’ till they can satisfy their employers’ sexual needs .

The question, ‘why children?’ has, perhaps, already been answered. Children and their trust are easily available. Indian children, especially, are easily subdued and intimidated by their socially designated ‘elders’. Which also rules out the use of physical strength on behalf of the child. Not only are children naturally weaker than their abusers, the concept of physically challenging an ‘elder’ is alien to most Indian children. Most importantly, however, children are helpless and unable to defend themselves, in more ways than one. To begin with, most children do not understand what is happening to them, and if the experience is pleasurable , they see no reason to complain. However, even if it is not, to express what is being done to it is quite beyond the scope of a child’s language. Children do not, literally, have words to describe what they are going through; and this is discounting the threats and coaxes abused children undergo to keep their little trysts with their abusers secret.
Beyond everything, lies the notion of the sacrosanct Indian construct of the perfect non-violable family. In a brilliant display of destructive irony, the victim’s family allows the continuance (if only passively) of the complete violation of those very values they think they are protecting by refusing to speak out.

However, when we speak of children, which children do we speak of? The emerging pattern from the previous examples are somewhat exclusive (in the reverse sense of the usual use of the term), in that they identify those children who are, in addition to their natural helplessness, also disabled by their social background. Apart from the boys who can afford to go to boarding schools, all children mentioned so far belong to, at best, the middle class and at worst, to those living below the stipulated poverty line.

This, actually, was quite a common perception till the Delhi-based RAHI decided to conduct a survey aimed specifically at financially comfortable women. The 600 women interviewed were English-speaking middle and upper-middle class women from Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai, between 15 and 66 years of age. The following is a brief synopsis of the survey findings:

76% of these women had been sexually abused in their childhood.

Of them:
  • 40% had been abused by at least one family member.
  • 71% had been abused by other relatives and family friends.
  • 2% were abused before they were four years of age.
  • 17% when they were between four and eight years of age.
  • 28% between the age of eight and twelve.
  • 35% between twelve and sixteen years.

Another survey, conducted in Bangalore in 1996 by Anita Ratnam, Lucy Kumar, Dr. Arun Kotenkar and Dr. Shekhar Sheshadri (India’s first specialist in Child Sexual Abuse) for the NGO Samvada among 348 female students from eleven school and colleges is now considered a landmark in the history of documenting Child Sexual Abuse in India. If the previous survey indicates the number and age of the victims, this survey revealed what was done to them. The statistics of this survey are as follows :

83% of the girls interviewed had been the targets of Child Sexual Abuse.

  • 13% of this group were also visually harasses before they were ten years old.
  • 47% had been molested, 15 of them before they were ten, by male relatives, often for masturbation.
  • 15% had been raped, forced into oral sex and penetrated with foreign objects. 31% of this group, before they were ten years old. 75% of the abusers were adult family members.
  • Roughly 50% percent of the molestations happened within the children’s homes.

However, an often-neglected effect of being molested or of watching or being forced to watch pornographic material (all of which come under the premise of Child Sexual Abuse) is the rape or molestation perpetrated by children on children. In some cases, it is merely imitative behaviour. However, more frequently, it is the sign of a prematurely sexualized child doing to weaker Others what has been, or is being, done to him. Virani cites the case of three pre-teen boys gang-raping their seven-year-old female neighbour in Calcutta on the 12th of February, 2000. A similar incident happened in Krishna Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, where the boy wanted to ‘see what it was alike’. An eleven-year-old boy from Hyderabad mutilated his nine-year old sister so savagely that she bled profusely throughout the day. They were playing ‘doctor’. Perhaps tellingly, perhaps not, their father is a child specialist.

And these children, forcibly made to internalise their trauma by a society that simply will not allow the idealised notion of its most basic device of control ,the family, to collapse, will soon grow up, and possibly, have children of their own.

Given our collective talent at forcibly obliterating all proofs of an insistent presence we would rather not acknowledge, we can only secretly hope…

Works cited:
1. Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse In India. Pinki Virani. Penguin Books India. New Delhi, India. 2000.
2. ‘Homes Unsafe For Children’. The Tribune (online edition) Sunday, January 25, 2004. Her World: Social Monitor. Madhuri Saghal. Permanent URL: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040125/herworld.htm#1.
Date of accession: 5th April 2006.
3. ‘The Universality of Incest’. Journal of Psychohistory: Fall 1991, Vol. 19, No. 2. Lloyd DeMause. Maintained by The Institute of Psychohistory, New York. Permanent URL: http://www.psychohistory.com/htm/06a1_incest.html. Date of accession: 5th April, 2006.
4. ‘Comment on “The Universality of Incest”’. The Journal of Psychohistory: 1991. Vol. 19, Page 219. Andrew Vachss. Maintained by The Institute of Psychohistory, New York. Permanent URL: http://www.vachss.com/av_dispatches/disp_9119_a.html. Date of accession: 5th April 2006.
5. ‘The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act’. WomenExcel.com, Law. Permanent URL: http://www.womenexcel.com/law/abortion.htm#pop . Date of accession: 5th April 2006.
6. ‘Law and Sexuality: Speech On Amendments to the Penal Code, 19 September 1995.’ Parliamentary Speech by Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam. Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam Commemoration Programme, Selected Speeches and Writings. Permanent URL: http://www.icescolombo.org/Neelan/ps190995.htm. Date of accession: 5th April 2006.
7. ‘The Commercial And Sexual Exploitation of Children: An Overview’. Maj-Lis Voss, 1999. End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism: USA. Permanent URL: http://www.ecpatusa.org/background.asp. Date of accession: 12th April 2006.
8. ‘Ugly Family Secrets: The startling prevalence of child sexual abuse in Indian families.’ Jane Henry. India Currents: Everything Indian in America, November 18, 2005. Permanent URL: http://www.indiacurrents.com/news/view_article.html?article_id=a22a810e39828ebfd7efcb9ec74ad0ca. Date of accession: 12th April 2006.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Shob census kore debo"

- Subroto Mukherjee to Amlanda's father, during the Emergency. ADG's "one and only contribution" to our censorship class.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pamuk - A Footnote

Orhan Pamuk's story 'A Religious Conversation', published in Granta 85, is an excellent example of the way in which so-called 'liberal' censorship can backfire on account of adverse reactions from fundamentalists. In the story, a liberal professor is killed by a religious fanatic as he had supported the ban on headscarves imposed in France. The dialogue between these two people is what makes up the story, which makes use of a chillingly matter-of-fact manner to underline the irrationality of the fanatic's argument (or so it seems). What the story does, however, is to make the reader conscious of the problems that any form of censorship can take.
While the French government is bound by Article 1 of its Constitution which declares France a secular state (the word used is "laïcité"), the right to freedom of expression of one's religion is also valid. therefore, some kind of balance has to be found between these two.
'Balance', therefore, becomes the key word as far as censorship is concerned. Total freedom of expression, though an enviable concept, remains utopian as long as all sections of humanity are unable to articulate themselves. Excessive censorship does not need to be categorized afresh as an evil.

However, what can be censored, and who decides what can be censored? Where will this omnipotent Platonic figure come from who can decide for the so-called 'good' of society?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Good Censorship

It is generally agreed upon that censorship is one of the biggest impediments to the "progress", as it were, of mankind. It hinders the fundamental right to free expression, and is one of the most favourite weapons of tyrants and oppressive regimes throughout history, employed to subjugate, suppress and gag effectively all kinds of deviant behaviour, thought or speech. Sometimes though, in certain particular cases, censorship proves to have unexpectedly positive side-effects. P.G.Wodehouse points out, for example, that one of the best ways to ensure that a book is a best-seller is to publicly condemn or ban it. To cite a somewhat flippant example, the issue of The Quibbler in which Harry Potter's exclusive interview was published became a raging best-seller especially as it had been expressly banned by the head-mistress Dolores Umbridge. One perhaps wouldn't go so far as to say precisely the same about Joshy Joseph's documentary, A Day From A Hangman's Life, an otherwise insipid and unremarkable film that would normally not have created much of an impact at any level whatsoever. The film didn't really prove to be a huge money-spinner, but the controversy surrounding it after it was abruptly pulled out of Nandan on the Chief Minister's orders certainly seems to have given it a new lease of life almost, by focussing public interest on an unlikely subject. It certainly explains why there was a full house when it was being screened at the K..P.Basu Memorial Hall on 6th February. I was pretty disappointed with the film; for me, and I suspect, for several others as well, the real interest lay in knowing that it had provoked the authorities enough for them to clamp down on any further screenings of it in Nandan.

A Day From A Hangman's Life focusses on Nata Mallick, the hangman who ultimately carried out the task of overseeing the final moments of Dhananjoy Chatterjee's life. Chatterjee, as is well known, was sentenced to death on charges of raping and murdering Hetal Parekh, a schoolgirl. The film, predictably, starts off with showing a whole slew of newspaper clippings about the crime, the death sentence, the various appeals against it, the grisly details of and speculations about the execution in a country which was about to witness a hanging after several years, and last but by no means the least, about Nata himself. The hangman occupied a huge space in the collective public imagination, being portrayed in a variety of ways -- from being a god-fearing person simply going about his job, to being a bloodthirsty monster almost, eagerly anticipating Dhananjoy's death at his hands. Joshy Joseph's film is basically an extended interview with Nata, going through all the phases. In the beginning, he is welcomed by Nata himself into his home. Towards the end, however, the hangman gets increasingly resentful about the fact that Joseph tries to get more footage of him than he approves of. His chief grouse is that he's not making any money, although he is the 'hero' in this documentary. Throughout, the audience is shown several facets of Nata the showman, who shamelessly plays to the gallery, milking his fifteen moments of fame for all he is worth. It is a film also partially about relentless media intrusion. In no way, however, does this documentary deserve even a fraction of the huge publicity it has garnered, if we are to consider it in terms of cinematic excellence alone. Even the one semi-original touch in the docu-drama, the metaphor of the cat, is stretched thin by being over-used. A Day From A Hangman's Life, then, becomes a classic example of (state) censorship providing a huge boost to an otherwise tame and mediocre offering.

Speculation over Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's knee-jerk reaction on viewing the film's posters at Nandan provided a more fruitful way of discussing the whole issue of censorship connected with the film. Reports suggest that our Hon'ble CM did not even watch the film, but banned it outright. My friend and I derived much amusement from the thought that getting him to actually watch the film would probably result in the lifting of the ban on it. The notable thing in this case, of course, is that the official reason for the film being pulled out of Nandan was insufficient ticket sales, and not the CM's disapproval.

Those of us who had expected the discussion that followed the screening at K.P.Basu to throw up any interesting (or even relevant) issues dealing with the reasons and methods behind censorship were sadly disappointed. Taslima Nasreen, one of the three panelists, failed to turn up. Sujato Bhadro, the first speaker, made a few relevant points as he recounted his own experience in having his documentary on Dhananjoy not being granted a censor board certificate. However, his address was mostly filled with obvious statements about the very basic premise that such a phenomenon as censorship actually does exist and that governments are mostly responsible for it. As students of censorship, we had gone to the talk knowing this very well, so for us at least, the discussion had little or no value. Moreover, statements like, " The Government usually almost never tells the truth, but the opposition always does so." smacked of being excessively simplistic and laughable. Vidyarthi Chatterjee, who spoke next, did not even try to veer close to the issue of censorship. He bypassed the topic altogether and proceeded to read out a long, bland essay about Joseph's film, lambasting Nata in the process. All in all, the most lively and entertaining bit in the whole discussion came towards the end, when both the speakers were engaged in a verbal duel with a certain JUDEean member in the audience, not realising that she was essentially agreeing with the very obvious points they'd made but was also asking a different question of her own!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Coda from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young Vassar lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles.
But, she added, wouldn't it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women's characters and roles?

A few years before that I got a certain amount of mail concerning the same Martian book complaining that the blacks in the book were Uncle Toms and why didn't I "do them over"?

Along about then came a note from a Southern white suggesting that I was prejudiced in favor of the blacks and the entire story should be dropped.

Two weeks ago my mountain of mail delivered forth a pipsqueak mouse of a letter from a well-known publishing house that wanted to reprint my story "The Fog Horn" in a high school reader.
In my story, I had described a lighthouse as having, late at night, an illumination coming from it that was a "God-Light." Looking up at it from the viewpoint of any sea-creature one would have felt that one was in "the Presence."

The editors had deleted "God-Light" and "in the Presence."

Some five years back, the editors of yet another anthology for school readers put together a volume with some 400 (count 'em) short stories in it. How do you cram 400 short stories by Twain, Irving, Poe, Maupassant and Bierce into one book?

Simplicity itself. Skin, debone, demarrow, scarify, melt, render down and destroy. Every adjective that counted, every verb that moved, every metaphor that weighed more than a mosquito--out! Every simile that would have made a sub-moron's mouth twitch--gone! Any aside that explained the two-bit philosophy of a first-rate writer--lost!
Every story, slenderized, starved, bluepencilled, leeched and bled white, resembled every other story. Twain read like Poe read like Shakespeare read like Dostoevsky read like--in the finale--Edgar Guest. Every word of more than three syllables had been razored. Every image that demanded so much as one instant's attention--shot dead.

Do you begin to get the damned and incredible picture?
How did I react to all of the above?

By "firing" the whole lot.

By sending rejection slips to each and every one.

By ticketing the assembly of idiots to the far reaches of hell.

The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-Day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.

"Shut the door, they're coming through the window, shut the window, they're coming through the door," are the words to an old song. They fit my life-style with newly arriving butcher/censors every month. Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn Del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place.

A final test for old Job II here: I sent a play, Leviathan 99, off to a university theatre a month ago. My play is based on the Moby Dick mythology, dedicated to Melville, and concerns a rocket crew and a blind space captain who venture forth to encounter a Great White Comet and destroy the destroyer. My drama premiers as an opera in Paris this autumn. But, for now, the university wrote back that they hardly dared do my play--it had no women in it! And the ERA ladies on campus would descend with ballbats if the drama department even tried!
Grinding my bicuspids into powder, I suggested that would mean, from now on, no more productions of Boys in the Band (no women), or The Women (no men). OR, counting heads, male and female, a good lot of Shakespeare that would never be seen again, especially if you count lines and find that all the good stuff went to the males!

I wrote back maybe they should do my play one week, and The Women the next. They probably thought I was joking, and I'm not sure that I wasn't.

For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mormons like not my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intellectuals wish to re-cut my "Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" so it shapes "Zoot," may the belt unravel and the pants fall.

For, let's face it, digression in the soul of wit. Take philosophic asides away from Dante, Milton or Hamlet's father's ghost and what stays is dry bones. Laurence Sterne said it once: Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading! Take them out and one cold eternal winter would reign in every page. Restore them to the writer--he steps forth like a bridegroom, bits them all-hail, brings in variety and forbids the appetite to fail.

In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.

All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers. It's my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset I've won or lost. At sunrise, I'm out again, giving it the old try.

And no one can help me. Not even you.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Orhan Pamuk

It appears that the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's trial by his own goverment--for 'insulting Turkishness'-- has been dropped, at least for the time being. Here are two recent links about the lead-up and the aftermath of the trial that did not happen:

http://www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/joansmithreportsonorhanpamukst/

http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,396786,00.html

http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,380858,00.html

Monday, February 20, 2006

Moral Policing

While sitting in front of the TV last night I (sort of) saw something that caught my eye. The channel (can't remember which one) had carried out a survey on the Mumbai dance bar topic. 40% of the people in Mumbai thought that the reason these bars were shut down was the interests of a political party. 38% said it was to crack down on prostitution while the others said something about moral policing and other reasons. The second question the channel asked was 'Do you think moral policing is necessary?' The answer was 'Yes' from a resounding 92% of the voters. 6% said no while the rest were undecided. Hmmm. You can see where this could go...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

the danish cartoons-did you hear anyone laugh?

I have been talking and more importantly, thinking about the Danish cartoon row incessantly since the last two days, while participating in a workshop on journalism, being conducted by Ursula Owen and Judith Vidal-Hall, editors of the London-based journal ‘Index on Censorship’. Here are some things which I still havn’t been able to understand about the debate-


- why were the cartoons printed in about 20 newspapers, atleast four months after being published for the first time, in a Danish newspaper on the 30th of September,2005?

- they were printed, as the Danish newspaper said, to test the limits of freedom of expression. Would the paper have published similar insulting lampoons on blacks, gays and feminists or would it choose to become ‘politically correct’ then?

- why did the Danish Prime Minister refuse to meet or talk to the Danish muslims who had protested against the original publication and wanted to discuss it with him? He has repeatedly referred to the problem as one between ‘one paper and some muslims’. Is it because he just couldn’t imagine that the controversy could snowball into something so huge? Or is it because he thought that Palestinian suicide bombers (which I’m sure are all the people he identifies as ‘muslims’) were too busy strapping bombs onto themselves to read and understand a cartoon published in an alien tongue in a foreign land?

- The protests against the cartoons have been violent. Personally speaking, I wish it hadn’t been so. And yet , I wonder why we did not get to know about the cartoons and the peaceful protests, as soon as they happened . Is it because peaceful protests aren’t ‘newsworthy’? Why did we get to know of them as soon as they turned violent? Is violence ‘newsworthy’? And is violence the only way then, for protestors to make their presence felt?

- Isn’t the West’s proclamation of ‘multiculturalism’ only a sham if they can’t take the religious sentiments of other communities seriously?

- And lastly, I recognize the fact that a democracy supports the right to criticize but is criticism against something one doesn’t understand justified? What did the cartoonist know about Prophet Muhammad or about Islam to make such a comment? Did he have adequate knowledge and authority to take a moral call on a man, who has changed the way a significant portion of the world think and live?



These are only some of the questions posed by a controversy which will probably have significant political ramifications in the years to come. Answers to them are admittedly, not very easy to find. But it’s important for us, nevertheless, to ask such questions.


Because only the right questions………….. can lead us to the right answer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Censoring Viragos

The brief discussion that we had with the two ladies from Virago provided a somewhat better idea of censorship than the ridiculous and exasperating tirades of Messrs. Bhadra and Chatterjee. They were frank enough to admit that they did not have all the answers to our questions, and admitted freely that we could disagree with them, especially on the question of absolute freedom of expression. Personally , I feel that censorship should be implemented in extreme cases, especially hate groups. Any takers?

I suggest that the results of the Seagull workshop should be put online in full, as it will be of immense help to the course.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Of seminars and toons...

‘However ‘with it’ JUDE might be, a course is a course is a course, and there are some rules. Hence the compulsion of talking about and/or writing papers on things you haven’t a clue about, which, we’re told in candid moments, is the rite of initiation into academics. The trick, apparently, is to be confidently confused (obscure too, if you can manage it) so that everybody (nearly…) puts incomprehension down to his or her own stupidity. And applauds loudly. It’s therefore a rare delight to have the opportunity to write a paper (of sorts) on other people who haven’t a clue what they’re on about, and are blissfully unaware of it. It helps, perhaps, that neither of them are technically ‘academics’.

We shall, however, play nice and not speak too ill of them. The much publicized panel discussion on censorship started without the star attraction, Ms. Nasreen. Never a good sign. The two other speakers were, at best, irrelevant. I take nothing away from FAS – certainly, they deserve credit for the kind of work they are doing: showcasing films banned arbitrarily from Nandan at the whims of the head of state, short films which would otherwise have gone entirely unnoticed, organizing sessions with directors – but it would have been less of a wasted effort if the two panellists had kept in mind that:

1. The topic of the evening was ‘Censorship’.

2. They were addressing an audience consisting of almost exclusively University students belonging to the Faculty of Arts, who would have considered a familiarity with the basic premises of democracy, hegemony and State-sponsored censorship a prerequisite to such a seminar, and would therefore justifiably have considered a skewed expounding of the definitions of the same for over an hour a considerable waste of their time.

There really is very little to say about the seminar, which leant heavily towards personal anecdotes and did not touch ‘censorship’ except when it came as an aside into their narrative, chiefly in the guise of the (film) Censor Board of India.

The cleverer ones among us will probably see this post – my attitude – as a censoring of the panel discussion. Well, no, see, because I didn’t have the power, the authority to stop the seminar just because it did not meet my approval. Mr. Bhattacharya did, and hence A Day from a Hangman’s Life was removed from Nandan.

The whole point of this blog, as I understand it – apart from being cynical about the chances of true freedom of speech and expression – is to promote and preserve the right to act like I (and those in the audience who did not exercise their choice to walk out) did, irrespective of our power to influence the situation. The conscious decision not to rise to obvious baits, because that only prolongs and makes ugly a few moments of annoyance or inadvertent entertainment, depending on one’s point of view. Joseph’s film wasn’t an exceptional one in any respect, and the attention it received was chiefly due to its censor, providing several a platform to bolster their libertarian public image.

But here’s the catch: discretion in censorship is then, perhaps, the key to those censoring, as well? If something isn’t paid any attention, if something is pointedly and aggressively ignored, it usually goes away. And once it fades from public memory, it usually stays faded. In fact, it took me a couple of minutes to realise the film was about the Dhananjay Chatterjee, who was the staple headline just over a year back.

The trouble with something as broad a term as 'censorship' is that it’s much more context-dependant than most. If we chose not to scream ‘Get to the point!’ at the speakers at Monday’s seminar it was because it would have been futile. A waste of energy, to speak nothing of rudeness. Besides, what would we have achieved? A couple of embarrassed gentlemen? An expulsion from the hall? And who knows, there might have been people who actually enjoyed the seminar. What right had we to spoil it for them?

Doesn’t hold water, this peaceful tolerance, when it comes to this. Then again, why not? Why must people be so sensitive about religion?
Indeed, and why shouldn’t they be?
Look, what does it matter if non-believers say about us?
Exactly. What right do they have to mock us and ours?

You see the problem.

I have spent a year blogging, and am notorious for long posts that refuse to make a point. So I shall merely link to two people I read regularly, both scornful of political correctness and sometimes, even the social hypocrisies we pass off as multicultural sensitivity. As Sam Vimes often says, just because you’re an ethnic minority (any sort, anywhere), doesn’t mean your parents were necessarily married.

Here’s JAP’s take on the issue, which makes a very important point in one sentence: Morons. They just created another 257,385 Islamic suicide bombers. Bloody cretins.

And here’s the ever irreverent Arnab’s – incidentally, a BE from JU – post on it. He makes way too many very valid points in his characteristics style for me to list here. Do read. And don’t forget to click on the links. They’re there for a reason.

The issue of censorship has, in our intellectual context today, taken on very controversial colours. Last year, the Joshy Joseph film One Day from a Hangman’s Life, about, obviously, one day in the life of the much-maligned Nata Mullick (chosen executioner for Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the man accused of the rape and homicide of a teenaged girl), was banned from being screened at Nandan, allegedly because it was attracting too few viewers. (When, one feels tempted to ask, does Nandan attract too many?). At a recent discussion – held immediately after a screening of the above film – on censorship, therefore, one expected fireworks and the odd bolt of greased lightning. One, sadly, was disappointed.

The film itself, though sometimes claustrophobic and always interestingly shot, is flaccid and frequently overcrowded with metaphoric intention. The speakers, ostensibly talking of censorship in modern society, more often than not veered away into impassioned rhetoric. They were both highly subjective, given to rants on issues pertaining to the validity (or not) of the death penalty, the corruption of the bureaucracy, and the selfishness of modern man; practically everything, it appeared, other than the bone of contention, ie, censorship.

The discussion seemed to freewheel into that disease of numerous contemporary reviewers – synopsizing and overemphasis on content – so much as to even incorporate highly inventive theorising on what “might have been”. The point about censorship was completely lost amid the declamatory waves of lyricism and intensely one-sided opinions. The first speaker even suggested that the film had not shown what should have been shown. In an atmosphere that had as its dominant tone the right to freedom of expression, this struck a slightly ironic chord.

Interestingly, what eventually emerged were forceful meditations on the merits of Costa-Gavras’s Missing (supposedly banned in Latin America), Tim Robbins’s Dead Man Walking (after all, it is based on a book by one of the leading American advocates for the abolition of the death penalty), and Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning. The opinion of the speakers seemed to be commendable and uncomplicated – censorship is reprehensible, banning more so. This unipolar discussion left no room for more delicate issues, such as the censorship of “hate speech”. According to Erwin Chemerinsky (“The Court's Recent, Controversial Cross-Burning Ruling, And Why It Was Correct”) “some argue that hate speech perpetuates discrimination and wounds those who long have been victims. Others argue that it is wrong for the government to deem any viewpoint, however vile, outside the bounds of the First Amendment. On April 7, 2003, in the case of Virginia v. Black, the Supreme Court held that cross-burning [by the Ku Klux Klan] with intent to intimidate is not protected by the First Amendment.” Although the First Amendment does not outlaw the expression of fiercely racist views, it understands that such views hardly ever remain merely verbal. So, the bench on the above case put forth three principles: 1. Some cross-burning is free speech, 2. Cross-burning proven to be threatening can be made illegal, and 3. Intent to intimidate must be proven, not inferred from the fact.

The tightrope that the censorship debate walks is complicated by such instances of revolting hate, one such instance being perhaps the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915 (the first was destroyed in the 1870s), possibly inspired by the newfound power of the mass-media, via the film Birth of a Nation and inflammatory and anti-Semitic newspaper accounts surrounding the trial and lynching of accused murderer Leo Frank. It is no small wonder then, that these contentious issues did not even find mention in what ultimately proved to be an abstract, platitudinal, non-discussion on censorship.



Sudipto Sanyal
UG3, Roll No.201
“Literature and Censorship”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The point...

...is to create a blog, on Tintinda's command :-), where all members of the literature and censorship optional course might post on the subject. A few rather preposterous sounding suggestions:

1. Assuming you write your posts offline in MS Word, please copy/cut- paste the whole into Notepad (the *.txt format) before pasting it in the blogger editor.

2. Please, please, please put links to any censorship related article/site you might come across, apart from your own writings.

3. Those not invited yet, do leave your email addresses in the comment section and I will send you an invite ASAP.

4. Since this is a censorship related blog, we'll avoid irony, right, and NOT turn word-verification on or turn the option for annonymous commentators to comment off. Play nice.

Oh, and for those new to this, I'm Priyanka of UG III, popularly known in the department (half of which consists of bloggers) and online as Rimi.