A group of Kerala artists and film veterans assembled at Kochi Muziris Biennale, yesterday to express support for Perumal Murugan. Mr Murugan, a novelist from Tamil Nadu (a southern state in India), is standing accused of depicting females in a bad light in his novel Mathorubhagan. The accusation comes from the present Indian leadership in Delhi. He wrote it four years ago.
Set in a time more than a century ago, it depicted the story of a village couple, Kali and his wife Ponni, who were in the twelfth year of their childless marriage, for which, of late, faced insinuations and insult from individuals. They lived in Trichencode village, in Tamilnadu, famous for an ancient arthanarishwara temple for worshiping a -half man-half woman idol. The temple's annual festival lasted for fourteen days, ending with a chariot festival during night. On this night, a married female could choose to indulge in consensual sex with any man as a desperate measure to have a child.
It tensed Kali when he learned Ponni had decided to take part in the festival, and what tension it brought into their marriage and love was the story.
Indian authorities found the story as deliberately depicting Tiruchengode females in a bad light. Murugan countered; he tried to convince the authorities the practice had already existed, and he only chose to write about it. 'God-given', they called the children born on the festival night.
He appealed to the authorities; he was willing to withdraw the place name from future editions of his novel, but that did not appease them.
His books were burned.
And ‘’On the night of January 8, on the pointed advice of the police, Perumal Murugan fled his hometown with his family. A day later, Tiruchengode town observed a total shutdown protesting his novel.''
He lectured in a college in the area. When his appeals to the authorities failed, he made a statement to the effect of quitting writing forever.
Murugan's supporters argue the book got translated into English, as ‘One Part Woman’ was the reason for the sudden flare-up of anger from the authorities. They further brought that India had worst sexual practices in pre-colonial times when women from certain communities indulged in open sex for wealth and better sociopolitical connections. And their lifestyle has inspired many writers.
This post forms part of my Write Tribe Pro-blogger challenge