Saturday, April 19, 2014

"endorsement of Modi ...lose faith in humanity"

S Anand is a ferocious Indian super-caste liberal, his mission is to fight on behalf of all the down-trodden against the (as he sees it) upper-caste dominated Indian society.

The almost existential problem he faces (but refuses to acknowledge) is that the down-trodden may identify with a humble chai-wala Shudra (who is also the face of Hindutva). Indeed Modi has strongly campaigned in Bihar and in many other places as a leader of the OBCs and by necessity (and also by nature) he has had to clear out the super-caste dominated top order of the BJP.

In another life (Bollywood movie script that will never be written) Anand and Modi would have been brother revolutionaries engaged in up-ending the social order in their own way. But here they are, representing the magnetic north and south poles of an India at cross-roads.

Anand now`admits that his decision to censor (he does not like the word, naturally) Joe D'Cruz (famous Tamil author and Modi supporter) may have been made in anger/haste, but the logic of the social justice movement is relentless (see below comments of feminist translator V Geetha), any friend of Modi must be denounced as an enemy.

Anand (in our humble opinion) is too blinded by the BJP packaging. He is a smart enough guy to be able to visualize an India in which Shudras are the kings, and who are quite capable of keeping Dalits and Muslims under-foot. The upper-caste vs. the rest was a clear cut case, it is not clear how Anand and his fellow travellers will handle the rise of the dominant middle-castes (who want to terminate the Dalit Atrocities Act officially and prevent cross-caste marriage socially). Will they even bother to listen to an upper-caste guy like him?

Finally we feel compelled to repeat our statement (since we really love Americanisms), censoring speech is always wrong. All free speech fundamentalists (includes journalists and publishers, writers and readers) must believe that (bad, even evil) speech must be countered by (better) speech.

The formal agreement with D’Cruz had been signed on 7 April, and he announced his support for Modi on 9 April. Our decision to halt the publication was taken on the evening of 13 April (Sunday), after speaking to both Geetha and D’Cruz, and may well have been a hasty error of judgment. But the sequence of events is important. When we came to know of D’Cruz’s position via a Facebook update on 9 April we did not jump to conclusions, and both Geetha and Navayana tried to get in touch with him. 

However, since he would not respond to phone calls, we both sent him separate emails expressing dismay and concern. As publisher, my email to him on 11 April merely said this:

Dear Joe, 
I read with distress the news that you have endorsed Modi. Initially, I thought it was a lie; that someone posted this on your FB, and that these are not your views. I spoke to Geetha too. After some Tamil newspapers reported this, there has been no clarification from you. This is disturbing.

Do tell us it’s a lie. For me it’s not merely a question of whether Navayana will publish this book or Geetha will allow you to use her translation. Your endorsement of Modi, if it’s true, makes me lose faith in humanity. 
There was no talk here of annulling the agreement. Geetha had sent a similar mail a day earlier. D’Cruz chose not to respond to both of us, but instead he was quoted by the Tamil and English media misrepresenting our views. 

For instance, on the morning of 13 April, the Chennai edition of New Indian Express, had this to say: On the reaction in literary circles, he alleged “certain people blackmail. Others threaten that my literary work that are currently getting translated will be in trouble. For instance, a translation of ‘Aazhi Soozh Ulagu,’ which is under the process of publication in English will be halted, they say. Some have sent hate mails that shower abuses.”

Joe D’Cruz chose to directly speak to the media rather than communicate with his publisher, or the translator who had worked closely with him over several months. This, we think, was a breach of trust. 

When the media started calling Navayana and Geetha for responses, we had to respond. It was only after a desperate SMS on Sunday that D’Cruz returned our call and stoutly defended his decision to support Modi.
In retrospect, I believe, as a publisher I responded more in anger than using sound judgment.

V. Geetha: “As the translator of Joe D’ Cruz’s novel, I am in the unenviable position of feeling both bereft and bewildered. While some think that I have taken a principled stand, others wonder if I should have separated the work from the man. I can only say that I find it difficult, personally, to think beyond what Modi stands for, and for me and many others, he remains the principal architect of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.  

This is why I have withdrawn the translation. I would like to reiterate that I stand by the novel, and am glad to have translated it. However, given D’ Cruz’s insistent and clear-cut support for Narendra Modi, I cannot bring myself to allow my translation to be published. I would therefore like to wait on that decision, until Joe D’ Cruz and I can have a conversation on how we see and understand what has happened.”

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