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FIR against Assam prof 'ignores': There's not one but 300 plus Ramayanas in India

Counterview Desk

An online petition, seeking support for Anindya Sen, a faculty at Assam University, who has been named in three FIRs (per latest news) for sharing a joke on Facebook, has asserted that the complaints of ‘religious hatred’, ‘communal feeling’ and ‘cyber-crime’ levelled against him are “baseless to the point of being ridiculous.”
Forwarded as an email alert by JanVikalp, a civil rights group, the petition says, “As long as the Constitution is alive, democracy is alive, everyone has the right to express their views, however unpalatable that may seem to the current majoritarian worldview.”
It adds, “Anindya Sen's Facebook post has no unparliamentary words, no threats, no instigations; but many of the comments attacking him are unparliamentary, provocative and threatening.”

Text:

An FIR has been lodged at Silchar, Assam, against Anindya Sen, an assistant professor of English, Assam University, based on a joke that he posted on his own Facebook wall. The charges levelled against him are that of 'religious hatred, communal feeling, cyber crime' (news reports: edexlive and barakbulletin). One of the sections of the IPC that he has been charged with, that is Section 295A, is a non-bailable one.
Another letter of complaint has been addressed to the Superintendent of Police, Cachar district, accusing Prof Sen of distorting the Ramayanas to deliberately hurt Hindu sentiments.
The joke shared by Prof Sen that has supposedly ‘hurt Hindu sentiments’ is as follows:
"She: And all this drama for a man who threw out his wife.
Me: Ya. Abandoned his wife. Right.
She: In fear of what 'people' would say.
Me: Oh! You mean Sriramchandra! I was thinking of you know who!"

The view on 'Sriramchandra' that one can glean from this Facebook post has drawn numerous trolls many of which are nauseating in their abusive language and threatening in their content. The trolls are clearly an attempt to intimidate him and people related to him with rape, grievous bodily harm and professional harassment.
Prof Sen's post reiterates a very common point that is well established in academic discourses on the Indian epic 'Ramayana' - more specifically in any gendered reading of the text. AK Ramanujan writes on five ‘tellings’ of ‘Ramayana’ in his scholarly essay 'Three Hundred Ramayanas'. Again we have the 17th century Bengali poet Chandravati's ‘Ramayana’ along with many folk traditions that locate Sita and her suffering as the central motif of the ‘Ramayana’. In the 1980s, Kannada critic Polanki Ramamurthy wrote 'Sitayana', a retelling of the epic from Sita's perspective.
Locating Sita and her suffering as a central motif, in 1980s Kannada critic Polanki Ramamurthy wrote 'Sitayana', retelling of the epic from Sita's perspective
It seems that these people are ignorant of the fact that there is not one Ramayana, but more than three hundred Ramayanas, from time immemorial, in this vast and diverse country. In a way each Ramayana is a 'distortion' of the other, and all of them do not portray Ram in the same light. So should complaints be lodged against these other Ramayanas?
Ramayana, as everyone should know, is an epic, and not a religious text. Thus the complaint of ‘religious hatred’, ‘communal feeling’ or ‘cyber-crime’ levelled at Prof Sen is baseless to the point of being ridiculous.
In this country, as long as the Constitution is alive, democracy is alive, everyone has the right to express their views, however unpalatable that may seem to the current majoritarian worldview. Anindya Sen's Facebook post has no unparliamentary words, no threats, no instigations; but many of the comments attacking him are unparliamentary, provocative and threatening. 
 These threats that attempt to silence any voice that goes against one particular ideology has become a frequent occurrence in the recent past. ‘Hurting religious sentiments’ has become a common narrative that is being used as a veil under which organised violence is thriving. 
We earnestly urge that these choreographed rampant abuse and threats and frivolous FIRs lodged on flimsy grounds to intimidate and stifle free expression in a free country should be given Suo Moto cognizance by the Indian judiciary.
Above all we condemn the verbal abuse and harassment that Anindya Sen is being made to go through and stand in solidarity with his right to express his opinion--an opinion that is in tune with the plural, diverse, democratic traditions of India.
Please consider endorsing the statement, here

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