Indian Novelist Arrested for “Objectionable” Portrayal of Hindu God

Yogesh Master, an apparently prolific Indian author, has been arrested for what amounts to a blasphemy charge. In his new novel Dhundi, which is written in the Kannada language, the Hindu god Lord Ganesha is subject to “derogatory references” and is portrayed “in a highly objectionable manner,” according to complaints.

I’ve not been able to unearth any actual text, English or otherwise, of the novel in question, but according to Daijiworld Media Network, the complaints are that Ganesha is portrayed as “cruel” and “rowdy,” having an “illicit relationship”:

Several people have alleged that the author has changed the relationship of Shiva-Parvati and Ganesha from the original story as per his imagination.

People with deep-rooted religious belief have objected to having dragged the story of Ganesha to state theoretical confrontation between Shudra and Aryas.

I’m certainly no expert on the Hindu faith, so I can’t weigh with any certainty the gravity of this alleged offense, but it sure sounds like a minor thing to arrest someone for. It is a novel, after all. But I certainly recall protests and boycotts and all manner of anger over things like Jesus having a sexual relationship in The Last Temptation of Christ, or association with homosexuality in Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Cristi. No one was arrested for making these, of course, but such sentiments from religious traditionalists are all of a piece.

These are the actual charges against Master, from the Express News Service:

Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Kamal Pant said the case has been registered under Section 295 A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and Section 298 (Uttering words, etc with deliberate intent to wound religious feeling) of the [Indian Penal Code].

Note that these charges focus on “deliberate” insult and hurting of feelings, which it seems to me (and the merits of the laws aside), would be difficult to prove. Somehow, I don’t think that will hold anyone back.

Here’s a video report of the story from an Indian television network, where you can see Master being arrested and hustled into a police vehicle.

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His blog is iMortal, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo, and the blog tweets as @iMortal_blog.
The opinions expressed on this blog are personal to Paul and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for Inquiry.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I used to think that it was clever to say that blasphemy was a “victimless crime” (i.e., since there are NO gods).

    But the entire idea of blasphemy, and blasphemy laws, are not only offensive but downright harmful to freedom of speech and individual rights.

    As a society, the only way we can move forward is by having ALL ideas open to public discussion and critique, to let the best ideas rise to the top.

    Blasphemy laws only benefit oppressors and bad ideas. Oppressors get the force of government to maintain their control over people without having to have such oppression publicly critiqued. Bad ideas get protection that is only needed because they are unable to stand on their own merit.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    If someone makes an objectionable portrayal of another person, that person might have grounds to sue for slander or libel. If it’s a god that’s portrayed though, it’s only the fans that try.

    • Hat Stealer

      Funny how the gods never seem to stand up for themselves. Almost as if they were trying to send us a message…

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        The really funny part is that Judges 6:25-32 makes the message quite explicitly part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

        • Bdole

          But, only for OTHER religions. There’s no one named “Jerub-Yawhwey” in the Bible. Cause they’re not content to let their god deal with anyone. Seems the Baal worshippers were more reasonable.

  • A3Kr0n

    You have just entered the Twilight Zone – where people are arrested for allegedly insulting a storybook figure.

  • HA2

    I think there was a very appropriate Onion article about this a few years back.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Warning: searching the Onion for such an article is very likely to yield NSFW results.

  • LesterBallard

    Fucking religion. It will never be completely gone, but I wish I could live to see the number of its various adherents drop below the 50% mark of the population at least.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      If you can make it to 2038, you just might see it. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201204/atheism-defeat-religion-2038
      I’ll be 88. If it doesn’t reach 50% quite as quickly as Barber’s projection, it’s still going to be a lot smaller and weaker. Stay calm, eat healthily, drive carefully, live a long time, and enjoy life’s amazing pageant.

      • Ted Thompson

        The best part is that we as the majority, will treat them far better than they’ve treated us.Go go gadget humanism.

        • Kengi

          A nice sentiment, but I’m not sure there’s ever been a majority group of humans who didn’t abuse their position of privilege to discriminate against others. This seems to be a human trait rather than just a religious trait.

          Unfortunately, I expect to see humanist principles twisted into a pretzel to support such future discrimination. This is why a strong constitutional republic is so important and why Christians should be fighting to strengthen the separation of church and state rather than weaken it.

          Christians are using the First Amendment as a club when, in fact, it was meant to be used as a shield.

        • 3lemenope

          As Kengi notes, there is no reason whatsoever to believe this to be true; it flies in the face of all of human history and what we know of the consistencies in human nature.

          • Kengi

            Humans, after all, usually create gods in their own image.

      • LesterBallard

        Oh, I’m 47 and on dialysis; 2038 seems like a long ways off. I figure about a year after I die, they’ll be taking cells from people and growing whatever organs they need.

  • Smiles

    “Hurt someone’s feelings…go to jail.” Can someone please explain why this makes sense?! It may as well be, agree with the majority or get locked up.

  • Mick

    The Hindu hoi-poloi won’t let this poor man suffer for such a petty offence. Their compassion will come to the fore, and they will soon be out on the streets protesting against his harsh treatment, and demanding that he be released. Well either that, or they will be howling for his blood. (I can’t remember how much love, tolerance, and respect is permitted in the Hindu religion.)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Blasphemy laws are public proclamations announcing that the protected religion or religions are decrepit, feeble, decadent, bankrupt, and corrupt; humiliating confessions that the religion’s ideas cannot stand on their own merits or defend themselves from challenge, like a withered old warrior king who must be shielded on all sides by guards because he can’t lift his own sword. Even as blasphemy laws enforce the illusion of dominance, they are pathetic admissions of utter failure.

    • 3lemenope

      Gods are composed of nothing but words. Hence, words can wound them.

      • CamasBlues

        Wow, 3lemenope, that is succinct and beautifully put. Can I steal that quote some time?

        • 3lemenope

          Thanks. Steal away!

    • TomG

      The very fact that Blasphemy laws are never enforced by the gods they supposedly are “protecting”, but instead by humans, is one more piece of evidence against the actual existence of divine beings. Either gods aren’t offended by blasphemy, or they are too lazy to punish it themselves. Either way, such laws only indicate that humans get very offended when you insult their imaginary friends.

  • Intelligent Donkey

    Whenever I hear about Ganesh(a), I’m reminded of this brilliant webcomic:

    http://diggercomic.com/?p=9

    Highly recommended!

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Brilliant, and Hugo Award winning.

    • TheBlackCat13

      Read it last night. That was a great comic. Thanks!

  • Bdole

    Devil’s advocate:
    In some places where you have different religious/ethnic communities living side-by-side purely by accident of history and are likely to feud at the slightest provocation, maybe insulting someone’s religion is the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

  • Without Malice

    Geesh, Gods are such thin-skinned beings. I can’t think of anyone’s version of God that does not deserve to be ridiculed.


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