In his article “Trash bans” (September 15), Mihir S Sharma imparts a refreshingly different vigour to the debate on freedom of expression, state action and public protest. So far, criticism of works of art has been regarded as an assault on fundamental rights irrespective of whether it is an aesthetic piece of creation or sheer mud, whether the artist’s objective was to inform or to hurt.
The police action against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi or the public protest against a US film showing the Prophet in an irreverent light did not consider whether these works were worth the attention or just worthless. In any case, as the writer points out, excessive protests draw attention to a work of art far beyond its intrinsic merit and give it the status it does not deserve. The offended person has to decide whether to have a feeling of repulsion and spite or revolt.
Mahatma Gandhi advised the former. When Katherine Mayo released her book, Mother India, Mahatma Gandhi called it a drain inspector’s report but advised his countrymen to read it all the same.
However, the spate of protests against the cartoonist’s arrest has highlighted once again the need to rewrite some archaic provisions with regard to sedition, defamation and abuse of freedom of expression.
Y G Chouksey Pune
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