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Administration let down Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, says his lawyer

Anna Isaac | http://@anna_isaac

First published: January 15, 2015, 1:55 PM IST | Updated: January 15, 2015
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Administration let down Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, says his lawyer
Saffron groups organised protests and burnt copies of his book in December 2014 alleging that Perumal Murugan defamed the town of Tiruchengode and its women.

Tamil writer Perumal Murugan who was forced to drop his pen forever following protests by fringe Hindu outfits in Namakkal over his book 'Madhorubagan' was "totally let down" by the district administration, says his lawyer and the Special Public Prosecutor for the CBI in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, GR Swaminathan.

Saffron groups organised protests and burnt copies of his book in December 2014 alleging that Murugan defamed the town of Tiruchengode and its women. Madhorubagan is based on the story of a childless couple and the myth related to a consensual sex ritual held at a temple car festival in Tirichengode.

In a note written by Swaminathan, he narrates how the "agreement" was reached between Perumal Murugan, the Namakkal District Revenue Officer and the protesters on Monday. Swaminathan writes that neither the police nor the district officials in Namakkal supported Murugan, seeing it as a "pure law and order issue."

Having accompanied Murugan to the Namakkal meeting on Monday, Swaminathan says that the writer's statement to pacify protesting parties was forcibly changed from "sincere regret" to "unconditional apology" by the District Revenue Officer. The Special Public Prosecutor narrates that both he and Murugan were confined to a room at the Collectorate and were not allowed a face-to-face meeting with the protesters.

It was the DRO, VR Subbalaxmi who acted as liaison officer between them. "I had used the expression "sincere regret". But the DRO felt that this will not be acceptable to the other side and wanted me to change it as "unconditional apology". I could not stomach it. I could see that Perumal Murugan was in real agony," writes Swaminathan.

He explains that Murugan was also compelled to change the name of the town published in his book, delete the offending portions in the next edition and also withdraw the unsold copies despite protesters going on with their bandh. The police and District Administration insisted that these conditions remained. Swaminathan says, "... Perumal Murugan was literally crumbling within. He literally was on the edge of frustration. He said 'write anything, do anything, I accept'."

Following the protests, the writer was "made to leave Namakkal only because the police suggested him to exile himself." The advocate notes that while he was told that the campaign against Perumal Murugan was engineered by certain Hindu outfits, he had come to the conclusion that "non-state actors" had come together to force Murugan to eventually give up writing. "Caste and religion make a deadly cocktail. Only a strong administration could have dealt with them. It did not. On the other hand, Perumal Murugan was simply thrown to the wolves. Casting pearls before the swine is a futile exercise. But to deadlier beasts, creative freedom is an easy meat," Swaminathan ends.

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