The creative arts have always occupied a strange space in the country. There are countless brilliant minds churning out unconventional work and different perspectives every day, but at the same time, there are the traditionalists and conservatives who don't exactly encourage change.
Whichever school of thought you belong to, you're probably aware of just how intolerant some people in our country can get, and the lengths they can go to in support of that narrow-mindedness. In most cases, it's the writers, poets and artists who get affected the worst, simply for expressing their ideas. This sometimes forces them to seek refuge abroad, which is a tragedy in itself
Here are some Indians who have had to face protest in their own homes.
1. Salman Rushdie
Had to go into exile in UK after receiving threats from hardliners
Salman Rushdie's writings span a wide range of styles, and his life has been just as varied and eventful. Spending time between India, Britain and now America, his work invites critical acclaim from most, and death threats from the few. There was a fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini for 'Satanic Verses', and he had to go into exile for several years. He claims he still receives threats on the 14th of February every year, but seems to take it in stride.
2. Deepa Mehta
Faced violent protests for her film 'Water' and had to shoot it in Sri Lanka
Deepa Mehta's film 'Water' faced protest from right-wingers who objected to her subject matter and portrayal of conservative households in a negative light. During shooting, more than 2000 protesters had burned the film set and thrown the remnants into the Ganga. She finally had to shoot the movie in Sri Lanka.
3. Arundhati Roy
Faced harsh criticism from right-wingers
The writer, who won the Booker Prize in 1997, has faced harsh criticism in her motherland, with some of her talks even being picketed for her Left leanings. 'The God of Small Things' is still a brilliant piece of writing however, something not forgotten by the rest of the world.
4. M.F. Hussain
Received open threats from right-wing groups
The painter faced several threats from conservative extremist groups in India for his depictions of Hindu Gods. His role as an iconoclast has been lauded in the rest of the world though, along with his art of course.
5. Heisnam Kanhailal
Faced protest from religious fundamentalists
The Manipuri theatre personality who received the Padma Shri Award in 2004 is one of the stalwarts of ethnic, poetic and minimalist theatre. His plays mocking the narrow mindedness of religious fundamentalists are especially notable.
6. Vikram Seth
Called himself a criminal of his own country for being bisexual
Vikram Seth spends his time living in Salisbury, England and Delhi, India, where he has homes. There's not much that needs to be said about his writing that the massive number of awards he's received don't say for themselves. His early education also took place both in England and India. His status as a bisexual has been topic of debate, with him claiming he is "a criminal of his own country."
7. Perumal Murugan
Retired from writing following violent threats from right-wingers
The release of his novel 'One Part Woman', which focused on the sensitive subject of a woman’s efforts to get pregnant with a stranger through a religious ritual, was followed by widespread protests by right-wing Hindu and caste groups. Due to this, he retired from the profession of writing, and announced his 'death' as a creative artist, a victim of totalitarian intolerance. The intimidation has gotten so high in fact, that he is considering moving away.
8. Mira Nair
Her movie was banned in India
Her movie Kama Sutra - A Tale Of Love, faced the wrath of the Censor Board which termed it 'explicit', 'unethical' and 'immoral' for the audiences of the nation, a hypocritical move considering the book comes from India. It did decently with the critics but did not pass the censors.
9. Sanal Edamaruku
Was forced to flee to Finland for exposing Christian superstitions
Founder of Rationalist International and president of the Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal has time and again taken it upon himself to disprove harmful superstitions and expose fake tantrics . He has faced accusations of blasphemy from conservative Christian groups and other right-wing organisations, with some groups even calling for his arrest. He currently lives in Finland, in order to avoid jail time for exposing the truth, another tragic lapse in our judicial system.