India

Court rules nudity is not obscene

Indian artist MF Husain had been accused of offending Hindus with a painting in which he represented India as a nude goddess. However, the country’s Supreme Court has refused to launch criminal proceedings against him, and has upheld a lower court ruling in May that dropped legal proceedings in three cases against the painter and cleared him of obscenity charges.

The court said Mr Husains paintings were not obscene and nudity was common in Indian iconography and history.

In its ruling, the court pointed out that the nudity portrayed by Mr Husain had a long history, saying: There are many such pictures, paintings and sculptures and some of them are in temples also.

Husain, who has been living in the Middle East, welcomed the courts decision and said he was looking forward to returning home.

Offensive food

Sikhs in Bangalore have been protesting (via) against a restaurant in the city because the menu included some pictures which they decided had hurt their feelings.

Over 50 Sikhs, who clearly had nothing better to worry about, gathered in front of the restaurant, tore up and set fire to a menu card and then marched off to the local police statement to file a complaint.

Gurudwara Committee president, Gursharan Singh claimed that some of the pictures on the menu – including a Kirpan (sword) and turban kept along with the footwear – somehow “humiliated” members of the community. He then went on to issue the inevitable threat:

“If the hotel management fails to tender a public apology through media or send a written apology to the Gurudwara, Bangalores Sikh community - comprising 8,000 members - will stage a massive dharna to prevent them from carrying out their business, he warned.

Judge rules that Richard Gere is not obscene

Almost a year ago, Richard Gere embraced and kissed Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty during an AIDS awareness concert. Predictably enough, the easily offended started jumping up and down and an Indian judge issued arrest warrants for both Gere and Shetty for contravening the countrys public obscenity laws.

Indias Supreme Court has finally thrown out the case.

Richard Gere is free to enter the country. This is the end of the matter, a two-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, said.

The judges said the court believed that such complaints (against celebrities) were frivolous and filed for cheap publicity.

Quite.

Determined to take offence

Its not often that I mention athletes on this blog and I have to admit that my knowledge of tennis is so sketchy that when this story popped up on my RSS feed, the name Sania Mirza meant nothing to me.

However, it appears that the 21 year old tennis player has been offending local Muslims by dressing as a tennis player. This has led to her finding herself at the centre of a series of disputes involving her dress and disrespecting Indias national flag, cumulating in an announcement that she will no longer appear in tournaments in her home country.

Mirza revealed she had come close to quitting the game after she was accused of disrespecting Indias flag during the Hopman Cup in Australia last month.

She was pictured sitting with her feet resting on a table next to an Indian flag.

Although Mirza said the pose was accidental, a private citizen filed a complaint with a court in the central Indian city of Bhopal under the Prevention of Insult to the National Honour Act.

Whichever idiot filed this complaint really does need to reacquaint himself with reality.

Hearsay convictions

XBiz (via) reports that an Indian judge has ruled that obscenity charges may be prosecuted without requiring the court to actually review the materials in question.

The case stems from allegations by a local cyber cafe owner that Mayur Vihar resident Sanjay Gupta was playing a pornographic CD, potentially within view of other patrons.

The court ruled that the magistrate was not required to view the CD in order to verify its contents as being obscene as a prerequisite for proceeding with the obscenity charges against the defendant.

Gupta challenged the order, claiming that the magistrate was wrong for proceeding with charges against him without knowing what was actually contained on the CD he was charged with viewing at the time of his arrest — allegedly the only incriminating evidence against him.

Author threatened again

A week ago Taslima Nasreen was moved to a safe house in Inda - following threats from fundamentalist groups - and promised to remove controversial passages from her autobiography Dikhandito (Split Into Two). But this isnt enough for some people (via).

Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the chief cleric of New Delhis Jama Masjid mosque, demanded on Monday that Indian Muslims should not tolerate the infamous authoress Taslima Nasrin on the Indian soil unless she offered a written apology for what he called her anti-Islamic publications.

The apology must bear her assurance that in future she will desist from repeating such venomous writing that may have any inkling of blasphemy, he said in a statement.

India is a democratic nation and the constitution here neither does permit any citizen nor allow any foreign national to be irreverent to the tenets of any religion, the cleric continued.

The entire responsibility of the consequences shall rest upon the government of India, Bukhari warned.

Interesting definition of democracy, and suggesting that the consequences shall rest upon the government sounds suspiciously like a threat

Self-censored

The Times (via) reports that feminist author, Taslima Nasreen is to rewrite her autobiography after she was forced to flee from Muslim extremists who placed a bounty on her head. She said on Friday that she hoped the move would appease fundamentalist groups and end a controversy that forced her to leave Calcutta last week.

“The book was written in 2002, based on my memories of Bangladesh in the 1980s, during which time secularism was removed from the Bangladesh constitution. I wrote the book in support of the people who defended secular values. I had no intention to hurt anybody’s sentiment,” she said today from a secret location.

“I have done what I have never done in my life. I have compromised even in a secular India.” She added that she hoped she would now be able to “live peacefully” in India.

Prashant Mukherjee, her publisher in Calcutta, refused to divulge the exact text that had been deemed offensive by Muslim fundamentalists, but indicated that two paragraphs would be deleted.

Ms Nasreen, who describes herself as a “secular humanist”, fled her homeland of Bangladesh in 1994. Her other works, including the 1994 novel Lajja (Shame), have provoked extremists to call for her execution for blasphemy.

Leading Indian newsweekly attacked by hardliners

The CPJ (via) reports that the Mumbai office of the Indian weekly Outlook was attacked yesterday by a group of men who identified themselves as members of the Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist party. The assailants were apparently angered by the political journal’s depiction of their founder, Bal Thackeray, as a villain in the current issue of the magazine dedicated to India’s 60th anniversary of independence, according to an account of the incident published on the magazine’s Web site.

Six men forcibly entered the magazine’s offices at Raheja Chambers in the Nariman Point area of the city at around 3 p.m. and demanded to see the editor. When told he was not available, they proceeded to ransack the premises, smashing windows, computer equipment, and office furniture. No one was injured in the attack.

The Editors Guild has called it a direct attack on the freedom of the press especially in a democratic set-up where political parties are duty-bound to eschew violence, and Outlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta has called it a crude attempt to muzzle journalists. This is a blatant attack on the freedom of the press. The Shiv Sena activists attacked our editorial office in Mumbai and made no attempt to disguise their identity, he said when asked for his response to the outrage in Mumbai, adding that he spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh immediately after the attack. He was quite disturbed after hearing of this attack. We have to consider and introspect that this kind of attack on the press is happening when India is celebrating its 60 years of independence. It is a crude attack on the freedom of the press.

How we dont celebrate freedom

Police in Mumbai have twice “arbitrarily” stopping the screening (via) of a documentary on Kashmir by award-winning film maker Sanjay Kak.

The police stopped the screening of Kak’s documentary Jashne-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom) last week and again on Monday on grounds that the documentary — portraying what Kashmir’s struggle for azadi really implied — as out-and-out inflammatory and radical in drift and content. However, the Campaign Against Censorship — a Delhi-based forum (with local chapters in cities, including Mumbai) fighting for free enterprise and artistic freedom of expression of documentary film makers — has already “taken up” Kak’s case, as one which smacks of “local thana censorship” above anything else.

A large section of writers, painters, film makers and other intellectuals too have come together — mostly in Mumbai and Delhi — to protest against police highhandedness. Murmurs of protest, condemning the police action, were heard across some Mumbai colleges.

The two police stations instrumental in stopping the screening have refused to explain if their officers had the proper mandate from their superiors to interfere in the way they did on the two occasions.

Fictional defamation

A member of the Indian Congress party has filed a petition in the Madras High Court seeking a ban on the screening of the Tamil film Sivaji for defaming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

In his petition, Satyamoorthy said a particular scene in the film had portrayed Gandhi and the Prime Minister in bad light. In the scene, when Rajnikanth, playing a US returned software engineer, approaches the villain Adikesavan for help in starting a free university, the latter is seen seated at a table which has a photograph of him standing between Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh. He is also portrayed as a Congressmen through his costumes in the film, he added.

According to the Congressman the photograph, shown four times in the film, gave the impression that the villain belonged to the Congress and that its leaders supported his activities of exploiting the public.

Actor Rajnikanth, producer Saravanan and director Shankar have a common intention to attack the Congress party, which has produced great leaders like Jawaharalal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, he charged.

Contending that there was an attempt to lower the image of the Congress through the film, Sathyamoorthy said people could lose faith in the Congress and the government by such a portrayal.

Someone needs to explain the difference between reality and fiction to Satyamoorthy, who is doing far more to lower the image of the Congress and cause people to lose faith in both the party and the government than any film.

The allegation of malafide against our party is clearly a misuse of the right to freedom of expression and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution, he added.

No it isnt.

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