Literary critic MM Basheer--a former Malayalam professor at Calicut University in Kerala--was forced to stop writing a column on Ramayana after he received threatening calls allegedly from Hindutva outfits.
Basheer had started writing a six-day column for Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi on 3 August to observe the Ramayana month (July-August), called as Karkkidakam in Malayalam. Though the newspaper's editor and he received abusive calls on the first day, he managed to write till the fifth column. But with constant harassment on telephone, the sixth and last column was left unpublished.
"Every day, I would get repeated calls abusing me for writing on the Ramayana. At the age of 75, I was being reduced to just a Muslim. I couldn't take it and I stopped writing," The Indian Express quoted Basheer as saying. "Most of the callers would not hear out my explanation but just abuse me."
"To the few who showed patience, I explained that the previous year I had written on Adhyatma Ramayana (the popular foundational text of Malayalam by Thunchathu Ezhuthachhan) and I spoke about Rama the God... But few among the callers knew the difference between the two texts and very few cared. Most callers kept insisting that I tried to attribute human qualities to Rama because I was a Muslim," he added.
A right wing group, Hanumansena, which had launched a counter campaign against the "Kiss of Love" protesters, is suspected to be behind the threatening calls.
Besides Basheer, some others, like critic Thomas Mathew and poet Yusuf Ali Kecheri, have also written such columns in the previous years.
Mathrubhumi editor M Kesava Menon pointed out that there is a growing communal divide in the society.
"Those who rake up trouble in the name of religious beliefs are fringe groups from within the community. But then the mainstream organisations across communities seem unwilling to criticise them," The Indian Express quoted Menon as saying.