Right-wing elements called ‘Meesha’, which was being serialised in the Mathrubhumi weekly magazine, an insult to Hinduism.

Threatened by right wing Malayalam writer S Hareesh withdraws novel from magazine
news Controversy Saturday, July 21, 2018 - 17:36

Malayalam writer S Hareesh has withdrawn his novel Meesha (Moustache) after he allegedly received threats from Hindutva right-wing elements.

Meesha was being serialised by Mathubhumi Weekly, with two extracts released over two weeks. Kamalram Sajeev, editor of Mathrubhumi Weekly Magazine, confirmed that the novel has been withdrawn from the magazine at Hareesh’s request.

“I have decided to withdraw my novel because of the threats and attacks against me and my family,” Hareesh told the Mathrubhumi News television channel, adding, “I am too weak to take on the people who rule the country. I worked on the novel for five long years.”

Hareesh, who is the 2018 Kerala Sahitya Akademi award winner, received a series of abuse on his Facebook wall with Hindutva right-wing activists calling the novel an insult to Hinduism. The Facebook comments included threats to his family and to the writer. There were also allegedly threats to attack him the way poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar was, in February 2018. Others suggested that Hareesh’s hands be chopped off.

Right-wing activists have taken offense to a conversation between two characters in the novel, where they suggest that women dressing up to go to the temples are subconsciously making a declaration that they are ready for a sexual relationship. The character also says that when women don’t visit the temple for four or fives days in a month, it is to make it clear that they are not ready for sex on those days.

While Meesha is his first novel, Hareesh was noticed for his short stories that came out in a collection titled Aadam.

Following the threats on social media, Hareesh has deactivated his Facebook account.

Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor called the threats on Hareesh chilling, and warned of the emergence of a "Hindutva Taliban". 

Dalit writer and activist Rekha Raj said, “It is indeed because of all the threats, one of which says his family would be attacked.”

Taking to Facebook, she posted, “S Hareesh has withdrawn his novel Meesha. Why are we still alive? It is dangerous to have a situation where foolish attackers and anti-socials can do anything. We should resist this in writing, in art and on the streets. Writers and cultural workers, we are a society in doom. Our situation is pathetic. I am hanging my head in shame.” 

However, a source told TNM that Hareesh has not killed his novel and intends to bring it out at a time when society is ready to accept it. “He was very depressed when he did not get any sort of support or protection even from secular parties,” said the source.

Hareesh is not the first writer to have been bullied and threatened into withdrawing a work of fiction.

In 2015, Tamil writer Perumal Murugan declared that “Author Perumal Murugan has died” after he was hounded by members of the Hindu Munnani and other rightwing groups for his novel Madhorubagan.

However, following multiple criminal complaints against Perumal Muruguan, in 2016 the Madras High Court finally quashed all proceedings against the book and the writer.

The court observed, “If you do not like a book, throw it away. There is no compulsion to read a book. Literary tastes may vary – what is right and acceptable to one may not be so to others. Yet, the right to write is unhindered.”

The judgement was hailed as a victory for freedom of expression.

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