news Friday, June 05, 2015 - 05:30
  When writer Perumal Murugan was ostracised from his hometown Tiruchengode last year, he had the entire literary community backing him. But now another Tamil author, Joe D’Cruz who is in legal trouble over one of his books, has questioned the absence of any support for him.   Lashing out at the alleged hypocrisy of the liberal front in India, Tamil writer and Sahitya Akademi award-winner, Joe D’Cruz who was once publicly criticised for voicing his support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, questioned what he called the two-faced approach of those who believed in freedom of speech. According to D’Cruz, he did not get any support from “ideologists” after he wrote a Facebook post in April 2014 in support of then Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi – a move that cost him a publishing contract.   D’Cruz is now facing legal trouble over his 2009 book Korkai after a summons by the Thoothukudi Magistrate over a defamation case alleging the portrayal of the coastal community and Christianity in bad light.   D’Cruz hails from Uvari, a fishing village in Tirunelveli district, and is acclaimed for his account of the history of fishermen which he chronicled in Korkai. The Hindu reported that D’Cruz has been issued a summons to appear before the court on June 12over the reported poor depiction of the coastal community, Christianity, priests and nuns in his book.   Joe D’Cruz said that it was a few anti-social elements who were going against him. “The complaint says that I have depicted the community very badly,” D'Cruz told The News Minute.   "The opposition is coming from vested interests,” the author added.    D’Cruz said that his novels have even evoked a lot of threatening "murder" calls from unknown numbers in the past.   Where is the freedom of expression now?   In April 2014, when D’Cruz wrote a Facebook post in support of then Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, the move cost him a publishing contract with Delhi-based publisher Navayana who refused to release the English translation of his book, Aazhi Soozh Ulagu (Ocean Ringed World). Though he defended his support for Modi, publishers then refused on the grounds that they would not support someone they thought was a “fascist”.   However, what he lost out on was not just a contract, but also faced condemnation from the “so-called ideologists”, he feels.    Criticised  the same “ideologists” for their beliefs, he said, "They have this stand that 'You agree with my ideology, then only I will support or promote you'."   “Where is the freedom of expression now? They will talk of freedom of expression only if you agree with their ideology?”, he said pointing out the hypocrisy.   Explaining that he could not be bracketed in the “Hindutva” label just because of his support for Modi, he said that his support was only for the individual and "there was no mentioning about his party, ideology, his religious sentiment that he belongs to.” However, as a repercussion D’Cruz, who works as the president of a shipping company, said that he faced a lot of criticism. “Many people came on to me. They even completely ignored me,” he said, alleging that a number of felicitation events were cancelled by the “so-called ideologists” because of his views.     The two books, a 2004 novel titled Aazhi Soozh Ulagu, for which he was awarded the TN government literary award in 2005, and his second novel Korkai, are both based on the coastal community. However the underlying theme of the stories revolves around the ancestral faith of the Parathavar coastal community which, he says, converted to Christianity in olden times. The portrayal of Christianity and the coastal community in this light has evoked criticism.   When asked why there was criticism against his novels, he defends himself by saying, “A novel is like a mirror. It shows what the nature of the community is. If you are identifying yourself with one of the characters, whose mistake is it?," he asked. He even alleged hearing instances where priests held copies of his book and promised heaven to those who burnt them.   Identifying himself as a Roman Catholic, D'Cruz said that despite his religion, he still respected female Hindu deities belonging to India.    “There are certain elements who are trying to put down my efforts,” concluded D’Cruz saying that the “elements” were trying to obstruct his attempt to bring awareness to the coastal community about their religious history.  (Image source: Yaadhum Youtube video screengrab)