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Mainstream, VOL L, No 11, March 3, 2012

Right to Freedom of Expression and Contemporary Left in India

Sunday 4 March 2012



Apropos Mr Hasan Zaheer’s letter in Mainstream [Volume L, No 8, February 11, 2011], I must say that he has brought a very fine writer, Mr Ather Farouqui, into sharp focus through his critical appreciation. I must add that Mr Farouqui’s understanding of Marxist ideology and, more importantly, his version about its application in the Marxist perspective is without parallel when it comes to contemporary South Asia. It reminds us about the first and second generation Communists, who were so idealistic that they now seem like mythological characters, including your legendary father. Zaheer’s seeking a clarification from Farouqui is apt and it is after a long time that we have seen such introspection relating to left-wing politics, albeit on a specific theme—the inactiveness of literary organisations of the Left particularly the Progressive Writers’ Association. Unlike run of the mill Marxist rhetoricians, Mr Farouqui’s prose is remarkably readable, which helps reach the discourse to the masses, without with no change is possible. I must congratulate Mainstream on publishing such a historical article, which is totally in sync with its tradition of critically analysing the communist movement. Cambridge, which is still the home of fine Marxist minds, has again started looking towards Mainstream for more informed and applied articles on various aspects of life.

We have yet to get Mr Farouqui’s clarification to Mr Zaheer’s question, whose close reading suggests that he has gleaned more than would appear on a cursory look. Mr Farouqui’s article, ‘Indo-Pak Relationship and Urdu: Companions of Paradoxical Syndrome’ [Volume L, No 1, December 24, 2011, (Annual 2011)] deals with the populist approach of the political Left and its literary organisations in earlier decades, which greatly influenced life in South Asia to move in a positive direction, surpassing sometimes even the impact of successful political Left movements till the 1970s. The revival of these literary organisations can still bring about a great change. When literature supplements Left-wing political movements, it acts as a harbinger, working out the best strategy. The Indian Left certainly boasts of a very powerful treasury of Marxist literature, particularly in Urdu.

More than the CPI, the political revival of which will be a miracle, the CPI-M too needs a powerful literary movement after its recent debacle in West Bengal. The CPI-M, incidentally, has been moving in the reverse direction when it comes to literature, witness its treatment of Taslima Nasreen, which has been shameful. The party, of course, stopped thinking independently about Salman Rushdie immediately after Khomeini’s fatwa, which terrorised it more than it did Rushdie. During the Jaipur Literature Festival tamasha, another capitalist ploy, the only absentees in the debate of right to freedom of expression were the Left parties and, of course, the Progressive Writers’ Association was not there even symbolically. Left parties, though, unlike the Congress, have no stakes in the States going to polls. The Congress, as is its nature, resorted to obfuscation on the issue and this was reflected in the statement of its spokesperson, Mr Manish Tiwari. The report card of the Left, however, had only crosses against it.

Can we expect Mr Farouqui to write about the Muslim stance on Salman Rushdie as well as the shoddy treatment meted out to Taslima Nasreen at the recent Kolkata Book Fair and earlier? If he chooses to respond to Mr Hasan Zaheer, which we hope he does, he would seem to be the only Muslim who is capable of analysing suicidal Muslim politics in India with a Marxist perspective.

Incidentally, Mainstream has not told us about Mr Farouqui’s association with the Left. An advanced search on the internet in this regard too did not help. We are curious whether Mr Farouqui is also a disenchanted Communist—like most right-thinking persons who feel strangled in the Left’s ranks—or whether he is a Marxist without any left-wing affiliation.

We hope that after the results of the State Assembly elections which will have no bearing on the fortunes of the Left parties, marginalised as they are in these States, they will get down to some serious stocktaking. Their lack of any stake in the recent polls did not bar their leadership from coming swiftly to extend support to Muslim fundamentalists in Salman Rushdie’s case. What a shame!

Ali Raza


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