Deepa Mehta's _Fire_

Samar Abbas abbas at BETA.IOPB.STPBH.SOFT.NET
Wed Jan 6 20:10:31 EST 1999

On Mon, 4 Jan 1999, Sumedh Mungee wrote about Partha Banerjee's reply:

> And it will happen every time minorities like you try to subvert
> the feelings of a majority.

This statement arises due to the illusion that `Hindus form the majority
of the population of India'. That is patently false. The official number
of `Hindus' is around 80 % of the Indian Republic, which is false. Now,

- Dalits and Dravidians ( together 30 % of India ) have declared
themselves as followers of Animism and Shaivism (the Dravidian
religion) respectively (cf Ambedkar's
books). Subtracting that, it leaves only 50 % Hindu.

- The above statistic classes followers of Sufi saints as `Hindu', so that
the % of Indian Muslims is officially 12 %. Adding the followers of Sufi
saints to the Muslim population, that percentage rises to 20 %, and that
of Hindus falls to 42 %.

- The bulk of Bengali Hindus are Communists, ie. Atheists. Yes, you have
to face it, atheism exists in India and is widely followed. Subtracting
the roughy 7 % Atheists (the % of Bengalis), the percentage of Hindus
falls to 35 %.

- Subtracting Tantrics (Indo-Tibetan religions), Buddhists, Jains, etc.
the percentage drops still further.

- Rajputs are descendants of Hunnic etc. immigrants in the 5th century AD.
They are thus followers of various Solar religions (`Saura') and are also
not Hindu. Nor are they `Indo-Aryans'. They are invaders from outside
India. Subtracting the roughly 5 % Rajputs leaves only 30 % Hindu.

In other words, the percentage of Hindus (ie. Orthodox Vaishnavites) is
barely 30 % of the Indian Republic. That is not enough to form a
`majority' (it is also the rough fraction of population that votes BJP).
This 30 % includes all of the Indo-Aryan castes, like Brahmans (4 % of
Inda's population), Kshatriyas (approx. 5 %) and Vaisyas (less than 5 %),
and several Aryanized castes.

This 30 %, in a democracy, can't enforce values on the 70 %. That's why
the attempts to enforce singing of Vande Mataram and sacrifices to Bharat
Mata on a daily basis failed.

> That is what happened in the French Revolution. That
> is what happened at Babri Masjid, and against Fire.
> And it will happen every time minorities like you try to subvert
> the feelings of a majority.

And that is what happened in 1998, when the sinister attempts by a 4 %
minority to enforce Sanskrit on the Indian population failed. And when
the 30 % tried to enforce Orthodox Vaishnavite religion onto
the remaining 70 % in 1998 ( ie. the failed attempt to enforce singing of
Sarasvati hymns on a daily basis in schools etc.). That is also what
happened in the film Bandit Queen, where minorities oppressed majorities.

> Why did the movie show the two lesbian women as Sita and Parvati ?  It's
> not as though Sita and Parvati are common Indian names. Indeed they are
> not. Why not two muslim women engaged in homosexuality?

What is your opinion about Konarak and Khajuraho ? There you will see many
ancient versions of the film depicted in stone, carved by ancient Hindus.
Should these be pulled down like the mosque of Babar the Tiger
(`Shadow of God') ? But of course you don't want anything done to them,
since they were built by Hindus.

> Or how about having a movie where the Virgin Mary is having animal sex
> with her father 9 months before the birth of Jesus Christ?

Again, these are shown on various `Hindu' temples of India. Except that
there is no Mary, but various `Hindu' gods and goddesses. Illustrated
Gitagovindas show the bedroom intimacies of Krishna and various gopis, as
do several temples. Beastiality is depicted in various sculptures on many
Hindu temples, and the Tantras encourage such acts. What do you say about
these ?

  Since you support a ban on the film (mainly because some Muslims were
involved), but do not support a ban on these sculptures (perhaps since
they were made by Hindus ?), I conclude that you are guilty of certain
inconsistencies. Maybe these are merely due to a Hindu fundamentalist
bias. As long as some Brahmins paint and sculpt nude Hindu gods and
goddesses, it's OK, but if Muslims do the same, then they should all be
killed ?

 If you go around vilifying the film, then, if you are consistent and your
reason not fully clouded with mindless fanaticism, then you should also go
around vilifying the `Hindu' sculptures at Konarak and Khajuraho, the
`Hindu' scripture of Kamasutra, the `Hindu' Tantras etc. Most importantly,
you have to prove to the likes of Mira Nair et al. that ancient India was
a prudish society (as you assume), and not based on Kamasutra. Till the
likes of you cannot prove to open-minded people that this was so, people
will continue making films that, in their view, depicts ancient Indian
society as it actually was. I invite
you to do so on this list. If you can:

1. Prove that ancient India was Victorian in nature and
2. Condemn the `Hindu' temples that contain those sculptures,

I shall withdraw my accusations against you. But as of now, your views
smack of Hindu fundamentalism.

> It is a well known fact here that Fire was a movie
> dominated by muslims (like Shabana Azmi). Why did they not choose
> characters of their own religion?

Because no such sculptures adorn Muslim mosques; nor do they adorn
Christian churches.

> Freedom of speech! It's time we had a Statue of Responsibility to
> balance out the Statue of Liberty. And some things are beyond the
> reach of law. Hurting the feelings of millions of Hindus is not
> illegal, but it is certainly not something you want to do repeatedly.

But the film continues to run outside Mumbai. And the sculputeres still
stand in the temples. As long as Orthodox Vaishnavites comprise only 30 %
of the population of India, and the bulk of observers think that ancient
India was akin to ancient Greece in its prudery, such films will continue
to be made.


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