ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Notes on a Literary Death

The vicious campaign by local Hindu and caste groups in Tamil Nadu against the prolific Tamil writer Perumal Murugan's book Mathorupagan is rooted in the perverse politics of caste honour. Also, this strategy of bullying him into silence affords the Hindu Right an opportunity to secure a foothold amongst the intermediate castes in the state.

This article was earlier posted on the Web Exclusives section of EPW.

Tamil fiction writer and essayist Perumal Murugan’s decision to not write anymore has shocked and saddened his readers and critics alike. Some of us who sat with him in a press conference two days earlier knew that he was veering between dejection and resolution. The campaign against his book Mathorupagan had emerged out of nowhere: it targeted sections of a novel published four years ago, which features the story of a childless woman who, rather reluctantly, opts to sleep with a stranger-pilgrim to get pregnant. Those who counsel her to this end argue that this is a time-worn custom sanctioned by the presiding deity of the Tiruchengode temple, Shiva as Ardhanariswara. Several prominent Hindutva ideologues, including a local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary, were initially vociferous in their opposition to this “insult” to Hinduism; eventually, the campaign was taken forward by a set of caste groups owing allegiance to the intermediate Kongu Vellala or Gounder caste. These men came up with their own reason for feeling hurt: they proclaimed the book dishonoured Gounder women.

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