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Freedom of expression in India

Page history last edited by Gabriella Sosnowski 15 years, 2 months ago


"An Artist in Exile Tests India’s Democratic Ideals."

 By Somini Sengupta


 The New York Times Online



 Published on: November 8th, 2008

Accessed on: November 21st, 2008

Freedom of expression is becoming increasingly targeted in India. For example, India’s most famous artist, Maqbool Fida Hussain, has fled to Dubai in fear of being  by Hindu nationalists for his artwork by Hindu nationalists.  Hussain, known as the Picasso of India, is 93 and has created over 20,000 pieces. Because Hussain likes to pain female Hindu goddesses naked and often faceless, his work has been seen as blasphemous and offensive by many Hindu nationalists. These nationalists have taken Hussain to court for promoting hostility between ethnic and religious groups, attacked his galleries and vandalized collections and have even offered a $11 million reward for his head. Since India is democratic nation, many Indians think it is unfair that Hussain must live in self-imposed exile in fear of his life. However, since India is such a large and  diverse nation, the government is having a difficult time controlling and pleasing each ethnic group. Because so much violence has erupted in the past few years between groups, the government is sometimes forced to “invoke British-era laws” which ban works of art and literature.  Nonetheless, it makes many Indians unhappy. -- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI



" Hindu nationalists protest documentary at Goa film festival."


Author: no mention




Published on: November 22nd, 2008 

Accessed on: November 22nd, 2008 

At the International Film Festival of India, Hindu natinalists protested the screeening of Maqbool Fida Hussain's 1960's documentary "Through the Eyes of a Painter." Even though the film has been arranged to run on November 25th, two nationalists groups, Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, do not think it is just to show the film, because according to them, Maqbool has 1,250 police complaints against and thus his film does not deserve to put part of India's festival. Many of these nationalististic groups are angered by Hussain's paintings of nude Hindu goddesses. However, their protests were rejected by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting official, for he feels that his documentary is not meant to insult anyone's religion.- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI


"Boy thrown under train for writing love letter." 

no author provided




Published on: November 20th, 2008 

Accessed on: November 22nd, 2008 


Manish Kumar, a fifteen year old boy from Bihar, India, was kidnapped on his way to school by members of a rival caste. Manish had written a love letter to a girl in the rival caste, which was considered to be a lower caste than the one that Manish was in. In Northern rural India, caste lines are taken quite seriously. One is not supposed to leave or marry out of their own caste. If these rules are broken, it is not uncommon for a caste member to kill another caste member in order to preserve their family's honor. Because Manish had broken these strict regulations, he was paraded through town with his head shaved and then pushed under a moving train while his mother watched helplessly. -GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI







"ARTS ABROAD; A Muslim Artist and Hindu Images: It's a Volatile Mix."

 Somini Sengupta 


The New York Times online


Published on: June 16th, 1998 

Accessed on: November 22nd, 2008 

Maqbool Fida Husain, a famous painter from India, is being targeted by many Hindu nationalists. Because Maqbool is a muslim, nationalistic Hindu groups, such as the Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata, find his naked portraits of Hindu deites to be extremely vulgar and offensive. In May 1998, members of Bajrang Dal broke in to Maqbool's home and destroyed and vandalized many of his paintings. While many members of the Bajrang Dal have tried to disassociate themselves from the incident, they are still pressing Maqbool to stop his "perverted" artwork. These attempts have angered many of India's artists and writers, for they feel as if this is a violation of expression. Despite the ban of artists on his side, Maqbool is frequently targeted for his religious themes. For instance, A gallery of Maqbool's artwork in Ahmedabad was ravaged in November of 1996 by a mob and a peaceful protest took place outside of one of Maqbool's exhibit in a gallery in Manhattan in 1997. Maqbool feels as if many people misinterpret his message. -GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI



"Crisis May Shift India's Political Landscape."

 Somini Sengupta 


The New York Times online



Published on: November 29th, 2008 


Accessed on November 29th, 2008

The recent terror attacks in India may shift the upcoming Indian election in favor of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a nationalistic Hindu party whose main campaign issue is national security. Narendra Modi, a member of the B.J.P., argued that Indian government did not do enough to stop the threat of terrorism in the months leading up to the attack.  Despite recent violence, Manmohan Singh, the current Prime Minister of India and member of B.J.P’s opposing party, the Congress Party, hopes that the booming economy will serve in the party’s favor. According to a study from the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, economic issues are the most important concerns of the average voter. In spite of the booming economy, the recent terrorist attacks may be detrimental to the Congress Party. The B.J.P has been using the attacks as ammunition against the Congress Party in the upcoming election. For instance, after the attacks, several newspapers in Delhi showed advertisements of blood “splattered against a black background and the slogan “Brutal Terror Strikes at Will” in bold capital letters. The ad signed off with a simple message: “Fight Terror. Vote B.J.P.” The B.J.P. has also accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of not taking the terrorism threat seriously. On the other hand, Mr. Singh has targeted the B.J.P. with the evidence that many of its supporters may belong to radical Hindu orginizations, which have been associated with terrorist attacks. -GARBRIELLA SOSNOWSKI



"Grief, anger as India reckons with its own "9/11""

Phil Smith and Krittivas Mukherjee 


 Reuters online




Published on: November 29th, 2008


Accessed on: November 29th, 2008

India weeps as it faces its own "9/11."The recent terror attacks in Mumbai have left many Indians in woe and anger, for many believe that their neighbor, Pakistan, was involved in the attacks. Outside of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, 50 protestors gathered where they demonstrated their anger against Pakistan. Increasing evidence indicates that Islamic gunmen may have produce their plans in Pakistan. While the country mourns the death of 195 people and 20 policeman and soldiers, political leaders are using the attacks as ammunition for the upcoming election. The Bharatiya Janata Party took out front-page advertisements which criticized the current Congress Party of being too soft on terrorists and failing to protect India. One BJP ad asserted, “Brutal terror at will .Weak government. Unwilling and incapable. Fight terror- Vote BJP.” Conversely, the Congress Party refuted “20 days of false campaigning cannot replace 10 years of development. Your decision.”- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI


“Blood in Mumbai.”

Dileep Padgaonkar 

The Washington Post online 


Published on: November 28th, 2008 


Accessed  on: November 29th, 2008



On Wednesday, November 26th 2008, terrorists committed a series of ten attacks in India’s largest city and financial and commercial capital, Mumbai. They targeted two popular five-star hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi Trident, as well as many other places.  Arriving on the eve of elections of five provincial assemblies, the attacks have left much of India’s population divided.  The two political groups vying for power are the current Congress party and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP has criticized the Congress Party for being too lenient with terrorists in an attempt to muster votes from India’s large Muslim population. Such religious unrest in India may have influenced the abundance of terror threats in the recent months. For instance, Muslims  are often convicted of suspicious behavior and robbed of their rights while Hindus are habitually let off lightly or not punished at all. For this reasons, Muslims have become increasingly doubtful of the authority of the Indian government and police. The Muslim youth has especially felt much anger towards the politics of India which had led them to join radical religious groups such as the international jihadist movement. These groups are often associated with terrorists groups in neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, which may have been associated with the terror attacks of November 26th. On the contrary, many Hindus are beginning to doubt the credibility of the Indian state, for a Hindu holy woman, a Hindu holy man and a serving officer of Hindu extremists have been arrested for supposed involvement in the terrorist attacks. Both groups feel that to deal with terrorism effectively, the government must start to crack-down vigorously despite a suspect’s religion.  –GABREILLA SOSNOWSKI




"The Special Sting of Personal Terrorism."

 Anand Giridharadas 

The New York Times online 


Published on: November 30th, 2008 

Accessed on: December 1st, 2008 


On November 26th, 2008, India's financial capital and largest metropolis, Mumbai, suffered from a series of ten terrorist attacks which lasted 48 hours. The terrorists did not flee right away in anonymity. Instead, they took time to seize key religious and tourist areas of Mumbai, such as five-star hotels, a popular restaurant, and a Jewish community center, as they continued to ask for victim's nationalities and vocations. The terrorists fought face to face, took hostages (especially Americans and Britons) and delayed defeat as long as possible. Because the attacks were atypical to the terror that India has commonly, as well as much of the world, experienced, many are viewing the violence as a personal attack, which may be why these attacks have received more media coverage than the other recent anonymous terrorist attacks India has witnessed.  Many media figures in India have deemed the attack India's very own "9/11". One member of the Parliament from the rightist BJP Party, Ravi Shankar, even urged India to take the same type of action the United States did on 9/11. The country's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was criticized by many of India’s citzens for his emotionless speech 18 hours after the attacks. While the country was crying for war, Manmohan stressed peace and harmony, police reform, and tightening laws. Singh did not want to point the finger at Pakistan when he knew there might very well be a dearth of evidence. The question remains, how will India’s government approach the terror attacks? They cannot show too little tenacity, for they risk further attacks, but at the same time, too much tenacity might cultivate domestic hatred and increase hostility with Pakistan.- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI









"Indian Court Clears Painter."

Compiled by Julie Bloom 


The New York Times online



Date Published: September 9th, 2008 

Date Accessed: December 1st, 2008 


The Supreme Court of India ruled that the painting done by Maqbool Fida Husain of a naked Hindu goddess in the shape of India was not obscene. This ruling "upheld three a ruling from May that dropped proceedings in three previous cases against him." Maqbool now lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai in fear of the national Hindu groups who oppose his artwork.  Maqbool believed the court rulings to be a giant step for India's contemporary art movement.- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI






"Right Tilt"


Jayshree Bajoria






Published on: November 29th, 2008


Accessed on: December 1st, 2008



Remembering the recent terror attacks in Mumba, India, many  Indians in several regions across the country will vote in India's upcoming national election. States that will vote throughout the rest of November and December include Delhi, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Jammu, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. These states alone of their nation account for 180 million citizens. Due to the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, many political researchers feel that the rightist, Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will take the election by a landslide. Many factors can account for this. First, the BJP has often attacked the current holding government, the Congress Party, for being too soft on terrorists and being incapable of handling threats and other national issues. After the attacks, many Indians have increased fear for their safety as well as the need for national security, which is why many voters may turn to the BJP as the answer for safety and defense. Moreover, the BJP was already the favored party before the terror attacks.  Many citizens of India dislike the incumbent political party (the Congress Party) for they are believed to have contributed to India’s economic downfall. Because foreign investors may now be apprehensive about India due to the terror attacks (many citizens feel these attacks could have been avoided if the government had taken stronger action), India will most likely lose tourist money. Due to these grievances against the current party, the Congress Party is predicted to lose the state-assembly elections and maybe even the national elections. Furthermore, the BJP may mobilize many Hindu voters, especially with growing tensions between Hindu and Muslims on the rise. For example, the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, lead a group of Hindu activists in 1992 to tear down a 16th century Babri Mosque. The outcome was a wave of Hindu-Muslim riots across India.  Ever since, the BJP has been come to known as the “champion of Hindus.  Even if the terrorists who are tied to the Mumbai attacks are found to be Islamic extremists, this will only strengthen the cause of the BJP for tight homeland security. It will also help to mobilize more Hindus against Muslims. Lastly, the Mumbai attacks may have redirected media focus away from recent reports of possible relations between BJP members and other nationalist Hindu organizations, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)  and  suspected Hindu terrorists. The BJP has denounced these reports as the Congress Party’s feeble attempts to shift the blame from their governmental failure to fight terrorism.- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI



"What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Mumbai Murderers?"

Ken Bobu   

Spero News


Published on: December 1st, 2008

Accessed on: December 2nd, 2008


For three consecutive days, 10 gunmen took control of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital formerly known as Bombay , to target specific locations where they continued large scale attacks.  At particular locations such as the Oberoi Hotel, the old Victorian Terminus train station, the Cama and Albless Hospital, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and a Jewish center named the Nariman House, the gunmen attacked anyone they encountered, regardless of vocation, race or religion (though some gunmen were said to pursue Americans and Britons), and leaving almost 200 dead.  It is surmised that the gunmen may have had a great deal of help at a national level, for the gunmen had advanced training in weapons and tactics.The gunmen are supposedly associated with  Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group known for its ties with Pakistan and Al Qaeda.  India has had poor relations with Pakistan in the past due Hindu and Muslim hostility and disputes over the rights to Kashmir, the northern most state of India.- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI


"Mumbai Attack Undermines India's Political, Economic Confidence."

Bibhudatta Pradhan and James Rupert



Published on: December 1st, 2008

Accessed on: December 2nd, 2008

 In recent terror attack in Mumbai, India’s second worse attack since the Mumbai bombings in 1993, ten gunmen targeted five-star hotels, popular restaurants and a Jewish center for 60 hours, leaving at least 195 people dead.  The Indian government is wary about politicizing the carnage, for it fears that this will increase domestic tensions between Hindus and Muslims, which have already been the cause of 11 bombings this year which have left 300 people dead. Citizens of India fear that the attacks will continue to delay the growth of the economy. These citizens believe that the lack of Indian security will discourage foreign investors from doing business with India as well as deter tourism in India. The two parties vying for power in India’s upcoming national election, the Congress and the BJP, have blamed Pakistan for the attacks. India and Pakistan have had terrible relations in the past, including partaking in three wars since 1947, but have recently made progress in relations.  In October, India’s Prime Minister stabilized both countries ties and renewed trade routes in the state of a Kashmir, a long disputed Himalayan territory. However, the attacks in Mumbai and the accusations of Pakistan may undo these developments of relation.  Many leaders  and citizens of Pakistan have urged the Indian government to gather sufficient evidence before pointing the finger at Pakistan.- GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI


"National Elections Begin Today in India."

Barry Bearak


The New York Times online


Published on: September 5th, 2008

Accessed on: December 2nd, 2008




Voting for India’s national elections will take place on September 5th, 11th, 18th, 25th and October 3rd. With a population of one billion, seventeen major languages, twenty-two thousand dialects, four major religions and ethnic and caste distinctions, it is difficult to predict what party will come to power in the diverse nation of India. 70% of India’s population lives in villages, which is why it is all the more difficult for political parties to appeal to everyone. Votes are often cast for parties by villages because they are promised more basic necessities or goods, such as widened roads or extra food subsidies. The two biggest opposing parties contending for power include the BJP and the Congress. Polls predict the BJP to take power. This makes many Muslims fearful due to the anti-Muslim sentiments of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, despite the lack of conflict in the months leading up to the election. On the other hand, in India’s last election, the BJP attempted to mobilize voters by demanding that a Hindu temple should be built on the site of a previously demolished mosque. –GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI

"Hindu Rage Against Muslims Transforming Indian Politics."


Edward A. Gargan

The New York Times online


Published on: September 17th, 2008

Accessed on: December 1st, 2008


Hindu hostility against Muslims is a problem that has plagued India for centuries, beginning with Barbur, India’s first Mogul emperor, whose conquest of Hindu India forced many Hindus convert to Islam in order to escape repression or poverty. Since then, the prejudices have been growing amongst the Hindu middle class and the Muslim minorities (there are only about 105 million Muslims in India, compared to the 700 million Hindus), and they have contributed to enormous political changes in India throughout the past years.  The Congress Party, India’s incumbent party and one of India’s oldest and strongest political parties (they led India to freedom from the British) has begun to fall apart due to accusations of scandal, corruption and stupidity. Because the Congress Party’s Hindu grass-roots organization has also caved, it has left much of India’s Hindu population feeling effaced. Thus, many Hindus are turning to the increasingly popular Bharatiya Janata Party, a nationalistic Hindu party, in hopes to revitalize Hinduism in India. The popularity of the BJP has been growing due to increasing doubt in the Congress Party, the BJP’s criticisms of the Congress Party and to BJP’s attempts to mobilize Hindus against Muslims amidst the ongoing hatred between the two groups.  Many Hindus feel that the Congress Party has tried to appeal to Muslims too much, spanning back all 46-years of post-colonial India. The BJP plans for India include improving the country’s global stature, restricting foreign investment and the BJP’s leader, Lal Krishna Advani, plans on subjecting Muslims to a common civil code, known as the Hindu raj, or Ram raj, which would state that  only Hindus can control Indian life and government, in order to preserve India’s Hindu identify, customs and traditions. Anti-Muslim sentiments were largely established in 1925, when a group of Hindu nationalists started an organization called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.) that stressed physical training, discipline and hatred for Muslims. Some members even urged that Muslims be driven out or purged from India. The R.S.S. gave birth to other nationalistic Hindu organizations, including the BJP. These anti-Muslims sentiments were further ignited in December, in the town of Ayodhya, where hundreds of men demolished a mosque that was built during the reign of Barbur. These Hindu men saw the mosque as a symbol of repression.  After the mosque’s demolition, Hindus and Muslims violently rioted in the streets all across India.  Since then anti-Muslims sentiments have been growing throughout India, and so has the BJP’s popularity.          –GABRIELLA SOSNOWSKI                                                                                                                           










“Mumbai? Where is that again?” This is not an atypical question for many average Americans. In fact, it is quite possible that many Americans never even heard of Mumbai, India, until they were bombarded by news articles covering the recent terrorist attacks that happened there on November 26th, 2008. What is even more disturbing is that many Americans do not even pay attention to world issues unless there are major disasters or tribulations that occur. It should not be this way. Americans should always follow world news because it helps them to truly understand the consequences of global events.  If Americans had taken advantage of the available coverage of Indian events before the November 26th terrorist attacks in Mumbai, they may better comprehend the risks and consequences that may result from these attacks, which may include an increase in religious violence and strong influences in the outcome of Indian’s national election. Because India is a democracy like the United States, it is important to be aware of the effects of events that occur there. Only then can Americans truly understand and appreciate their rights and opportunities granted to them in a genuine democratic society. They may even realize how important it is for others to have these rights as well.















Comments (1)

sandra jamieson said

at 12:23 am on Dec 3, 2008

A lovely introduction/thesis. Nice work. I look forward to reading the paper!

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