In another instance of religious intolerance, a writer in Kerala wasÂ forced to stop his daily column on Ramayana for being a Muslim. M MÂ Basheer, a noted literary critic and former professor of Malayalam atÂ the University of Calicut, stopped his column named âRamayanamÂ Jeevithasaramrithamâ (Essence of Ramayana) in Malalayalam dailyÂ Mathrubhumi after he received as many threat and abuse calls from theÂ right wing groups. Basheer, who is 75, was originally entitled to writeÂ six columns for the newspaper this August, however, stopped at fiveÂ after the threats escalated to an intolerable level. He got continuousÂ pestering calls mocking his identity as a Muslim writing a column basedÂ on a Hindu script.
Even posters threatening Basheer was put up near the newspaperâs headÂ office in Kozhikode the day after the column started appearing on theÂ daily on August 3. It is learnt from the sources that Hanumansena isÂ behind the act. The right wing group has been in the forefront inÂ unleashing attack on âKiss of Loveâ protest in the state few months
Though Basheer was unavailable for comment, a close source withÂ Mathrubhumi told Tehelka that he was deeply upset with the threat callsÂ and being termed a Muslim. Though he belonged to Muslim community,Â Basheer sir ever in his life showed any inclination to religious groupsÂ or organization, said the journalist.
He added that Basheer sir was one among the few literary figures in theÂ state who is active even at this age. His column on Ramayana garneredÂ public attention for the way he dealt the topic in a simple, easyÂ language. A reader of the column said that she he felt proud for BasheerÂ sir taking efforts in researching and studying Ramayana deeply.
Basheer did not attend the phone even after Tehelka made repeatedÂ efforts soon after the issue was out on Friday morning. The IndianÂ Express carried a detailed report referring to him as saying that heÂ stopped the column after he received continuous threat calls from theÂ unnamed persons. He in that interview says, bit emotionally, that at
this age he cannot withstand this level of a criticism and stoppedÂ writing. He also added that no persons were willing to hear his versionÂ or explanation regarding the column.
âTo the few who showed patience, I explained that the previous year IÂ had written on Adhyatma Ramayana (the popular foundational text ofÂ Malayalam by Thunchathu Ezhuthachhan) and I spoke about Rama the GodâŚ
But few among the callers knew the difference between the two texts andÂ very few cared. Most callers kept insisting that I tried to attributeÂ human qualities to Rama because I was a Muslim,â said Basheer in theÂ Indian Express.
Meanwhile, writer Suneeta Balakrishnan told Tehelka that the news couldÂ be seen as a concerted effort of certain vested interests to instillÂ fear among the people. A man of his scholarly calibre, Basheer sir hasÂ only interpreted a classical literature through his column and didÂ nothing offensive.