In another instance of religious intolerance, a writer in Kerala was forced to stop his daily column on Ramayana for being a Muslim. M M Basheer, a noted literary critic and former professor of Malayalam at the University of Calicut, stopped his column named ‘Ramayanam Jeevithasaramritham’ (Essence of Ramayana) in Malalayalam daily Mathrubhumi after he received as many threat and abuse calls from the right wing groups. Basheer, who is 75, was originally entitled to write six columns for the newspaper this August, however, stopped at five after the threats escalated to an intolerable level. He got continuous pestering calls mocking his identity as a Muslim writing a column based on a Hindu script.
Even posters threatening Basheer was put up near the newspaper’s head office in Kozhikode the day after the column started appearing on the daily on August 3. It is learnt from the sources that Hanumansena is behind the act. The right wing group has been in the forefront in unleashing attack on ‘Kiss of Love’ protest in the state few months
Though Basheer was unavailable for comment, a close source with Mathrubhumi told Tehelka that he was deeply upset with the threat calls and being termed a Muslim. Though he belonged to Muslim community, Basheer sir ever in his life showed any inclination to religious groups or organization, said the journalist.
He added that Basheer sir was one among the few literary figures in the state who is active even at this age. His column on Ramayana garnered public attention for the way he dealt the topic in a simple, easy language. A reader of the column said that she he felt proud for Basheer sir taking efforts in researching and studying Ramayana deeply.
Basheer did not attend the phone even after Tehelka made repeated efforts soon after the issue was out on Friday morning. The Indian Express carried a detailed report referring to him as saying that he stopped the column after he received continuous threat calls from the unnamed persons. He in that interview says, bit emotionally, that at
this age he cannot withstand this level of a criticism and stopped writing. He also added that no persons were willing to hear his version or explanation regarding the column.
“To the few who showed patience, I explained that the previous year I had written on Adhyatma Ramayana (the popular foundational text of Malayalam by Thunchathu Ezhuthachhan) and I spoke about Rama the God…
But few among the callers knew the difference between the two texts and very few cared. Most callers kept insisting that I tried to attribute human qualities to Rama because I was a Muslim,” said Basheer in the Indian Express.
Meanwhile, writer Suneeta Balakrishnan told Tehelka that the news could be seen as a concerted effort of certain vested interests to instill fear among the people. A man of his scholarly calibre, Basheer sir has only interpreted a classical literature through his column and did nothing offensive.