As the world celebrated International Poetry Day, another poet’s freedom of expression was put under question here in Bengal, the land which has always been known for its progressive ideas in art and literature. The attack on Srijato Bandopadhyay came from Hindu fanatics, due to his poem ‘Abhishaap’(curse) which he published two days back on Facebook as a protest against Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s comment where he asked Hindus to rape dead Muslim women.
An FIR was launched against him at the Siliguri cyber crime station for ‘spreading communal violence and hurting religious sentiments’. Srijato, in an interview to Times of India, said, “The poem generated a lot of reactions. Some detractors reacted to my use of the metaphors like ‘trishul’ and condom. They have not understood how I used these metaphors in the poem. If they can’t understand metaphors, it’s not my fault.” He says he was pretty much taken aback when he came to know about the complaint.
He adds, “Later on, when I thought about the whole issue, I realized that this shouldn’t shock me so much. In a country where a violent mob killed a man accused of eating beef, such an FIR isn’t unexpected. We are living in intolerant times…He (Yogi Adityanath) believes that women shouldn’t be given freedom or left alone. It’s scary that someone who is the Chief Minister of the largest state of India still clings on to beliefs that are 2000 years old.’
Srijato has said that he will be taking advice to deal with this situation. This is not the first case of him being attacked by fanatics. A few years back, Islamic fundamentalists threatened him for writing a collection of poems called ‘Ondhokaarer Lekhaguccho’. “Because of my writings and the protests against them in Bangladesh, I can’t go to that country,” said Srijato. “If I had written these poems sitting in a country where bloggers get lynched, I might have been dead by now.”
The attack on Srijato comes off as another example of the rising fundamentalism in the Indian middle class, on the quest to annihilate free speech on the pretext of ‘religious sentiments’. Now the question is that, is religion so puny that it cannot withstand a slight attack by a poem? Does the religion and those who claim to ‘protect’ it deserve all the respect then?