Who’s Shirin Dalvi?

Tagged as Editor-in-hiding by NDTV, Shirin Dalvi, a Mumbai based journalist and the ex-editor of Urdu daily “Awadhnama” has just become, against her wishes of course, a member of the ‘Offenders of Sensitivities club. She earned the distinction after publishing an article on the Charlie Hebdo attacks where she used a cartoon depicting the most venerated figure of the largest religious minority community of India. Certain concerned and necessarily hyper-active members of the said community soon filed a number of cases against her alleging malicious and deliberate injury caused to their religious sentiments by Ms Dalvi. That Ms Dalvi had published a front page apology in the newspaper following her arrest and release on bail has failed to soothe the pain of the custodians of the religion in question and that sets Ms Dalvi on the run.

Artists shouldn't have with their lives for openly expressing their ideas about religions (pic courtesy: globalnews.ca)
Artists shouldn’t have to pay with their lives for openly expressing their ideas about organized religions (pic courtesy: globalnews.ca)

According to the article in The Hindu by Mr Hasan Saroor, who has tried to mobilize the liberal Muslim opinion against the hounding of a journalist by the fanatics, she had to start living like a spy without a mission to avoid the possibility of an actual physical harm either to her or her relatives by one or another individuals with hurt sentiments. Speaking to a newspaper she said, “I have avoided showing my face in Muslim-populated pockets. I have not gone back to my house since the protest started. Our house has been locked. Both my daughter and son are living with relatives. They haven’t been able to get their books, and they haven’t attended college in the last two weeks.”

In another story, The Hindu reports, ” Five FIRs have been filed against her in three districts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Thane and Nashik, under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

A ready purpose behind all artistic expressions may not be present but that is no ground to suppress the expression itself (pic courtesy: thedailyblog.co.nz)
A ready purpose behind all artistic expressions may not be present but that is no ground to suppress the expression itself (pic courtesy: thedailyblog.co.nz)

Another story in Times of India tells that the Mumbai edition of the Lucknow based Urdu newspaper, Awadhnama,  which was shut down after hurting the sentiments of a few people was merely a year old. The report further says that the publication of ‘hurtful’ cartoon was an editorial mistake. “Dalvi had meant to reproduce the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo purely as an illustration to go along with a report” and “By mistake, she reproduced an old cover showing a caricature of a bearded man in tears, covering his face and lamenting, “It’s hard to be loved by idiots”, with the headline ‘Muhammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists’.”

The issue here, strictly speaking, may not be of freedom of speech and expression but about making a clear choice against the state-of-affairs where with increasing frequency and vitriol the sadists, the so-called custodians of culture, religion or tradition, the ones who are too feeble to mint a contemporary value system of their own and have to sorely depend on ancient norms to make sense of their existence, keep finding one easy victim after another. Because, the rights of those who are taking a lead in making sense of reality as it exists rather than obsessing over the details of a world as it should be need to be protected to wake ourselves up from the intellectual torpor the organized religions have got us trapped into.

The 'hurtful' cartoon showing the Prophet in tears ( europenews.dk )
The ‘hurtful’ cartoon showing the Prophet in tears ( europenews.dk )

The indifference shown to Ms Dalvi’s ordeal by mainstream civil society organizations may have to do with the unwarranted excessive sensitivity with which the perverted aspects of religious minorites’ social issues are often dealt with. For the liberal Muslims who are addressed by Mr Hasan Saroor in his article to start speaking up against such regular violations of liberal ideas, challenges remain compounded as not only they have to fight against the rabid elements of their community but the mainstream support which the members of ‘offenders of sensitivities’ club generally receive often shies away from them because of their religious identity.

Link for Mr Saroor’s article: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-silence-of-the-liberal-muslim/article6875324.ece

Link for NDTV story: http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/legal-reprieve-for-mumbai-editor-who-reprinted-charlie-hebdo-cartoon-738210

Link for TOI story: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/No-one-took-my-side-of-the-story-Shireen-Dalvi/articleshow/46105618.cms

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