Malayalam writer withdraws book over death threats

Hareesh has won the 2018 Kerala Sahitya Akademy award for his short stories collection ‘Aadam.’

S Hareesh
Kerala: Malayalam writer S Hareesh withdrew his novel ‘Meesha’ (Moustache) after receiving death threats online for portraying Hindu women in bad light.
The book was being published in series form by Mathrubhumi Weekly, with two extracts released over two weeks. “Kamalram Sajeev, the editor of Mathrubhumi Weekly Magazine, confirmed that the novel has been withdrawn from the magazine at Hareesh’s request. “I have decided to withdraw my novel because of the threats and attacks against me and my family,” Hareesh told the Mathrubhumi News television channel, adding, “I am too weak to take on the people who rule the country. I worked on the novel for five long years,” The News Minute reported.
“Right-wing activists have taken offence to a conversation between two characters in the novel, where they suggest that women dressing up to go to the temples are subconsciously making a declaration that they are ready for a sexual relationship. The character also says that when women don’t visit the temple for four or five days in a month, it is to make it clear that they are not ready for sex on those days,” reported TNM.
“Literature is being mob lynched, the darkest day in Kerala’s cultural history, lightless days to follow,” Sajeev had tweeted.
His family was also threatened and right-wing elements also threatened to chop his hands off. Hareesh has won the 2018 Kerala Sahitya Akademy award for his short stories collection ‘Aadam.’
The incident has riled many cultural groups across the country.
A protest was held recently on the sidelines of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival in Kerala. Renowned documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker Kavitha Lankesh, director and chairman of the Kerala Chalachitra Academy Kamal, vice chairman of the academy Bina Paul, director Dr Biju, director Sibi Malayil, actor Sajitha Madathil and poet Anwar Ali among others participated in the protest on Sunday, a day after Hareesh’s announcement.
“The true test of freedom of expression does not come when you approve a work of art that you agree with, Patwardhan feels. It comes when you approve one that you don’t agree with. He appealed to Hareesh to not stop writing. “If the right wing is attacking you, you are doing something right,” Anand says. But the Left government should fight every such attack on those who criticise religion. “We should have fought for Taslima Nasrin too,” Patwardhan said in the TNM report.
“Fundamentalists of all hues have now found a template to stop writers — essentially solitary, vulnerable, and sensitive creatures — from expressing themselves,” writer N.S. Madhavan said in a report by The Hindu.
“From the novel, they are now training their attention to a single para and from the movie, to a single frame. This is a dangerous turn in our cultural history. It is time for institutions to stand up with the artist. Firstly, the government should nip in the bud such concerted attack by a scattered crowd of goons — unloved, brutish, lonely, and revelling in the anonymity of the web. That should be busted. Secondly, publishers have reaped prestige and profits, in fair weather, from works of art and writing. Now is the payback time. Stand up with the artists as patrons in the past have bravely done. Thirdly, Kerala’s civil society, I have great faith in them; they now know that the bully is at the door. Time is now for an innovative assault on the dark forces, as Kerala had done in the past, from panthi bhojanam (community feast) onwards,” Madhavan said.
The Yogakshema Sabha and Hindu Aikya Vedi have also been protesting against the book and writer. It is believed that the Sangh Parivar is using them as fronts to piggyback on controversy. Members of Hindutva outfits and temple priests’ associations marched to the state Secretariat, protesting against the novel for allegedly insulting Hindu traditions and rituals. The Hindu had reported that Hindu Aikya Vedi vandalized a book exhibition on spirituality organized by Mathrubhumi Books in Kochi to protest against Hareesh’s book.
Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor responded to the incident on Twitter and said that those who did not believe his warnings about the emergence of a Hindutva Taliban would learn from what happened to Hareesh.



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