Free speech is increasingly under attack in the world's most populous democracy. The distribution of "Crescent Over the World," a book including contributions from Salman Rushdie, Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, and a cartoon from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Mr. Narisetti is out on bail now; Mr. Laxmaiah remains in custody.
Indians boast of living in the world's most populous democracy, and rightly so. Regular elections and vigorous public debate are a rebuke to anyone who thinks that liberty can't flourish in a large, largely poor, culturally and linguistically diverse country. But in one area of life officials' concerns for keeping peace between various religious and ethnic groups is threatening a core freedom: speech.
The works of Maqbool Fida Husain have been attacked by Hindu nationalists.
Then there are the continuing attacks on Ms. Nasreen and her supporters. Last week, masked men broke into the offices of Kannada Prabha, a local-language newspaper in the southern state of Karnataka. Its weekly magazine had published a piece allegedly written by Ms. Nasreen that criticized the burqa, the veil that many Muslim women wear. Muslim groups had protested the article—which was three years old and republished by the Kannada newspaper without her permission—and violence in two towns ensued, leading to two deaths and dozens arrested. Ms. Nasreen, who fled Bangladesh in 1994 after Muslim fundamentalists threatened her life, currently divides her time between Sweden and the United States, but says she wants to live in India. The government stands in the way, not permitting her to stay in Kolkata, where she prefers to live, and keeping her at an undisclosed location in New Delhi under security surveillance during her last extended stay in the country ostensibly for her own safety.
The sensitivity doesn't just concern Islam. Last week, India's foremost painter, Maqbool Fida Husain, who is 94, decided to give up Indian nationality and became a Qatari citizen. Mr. Husain is a Muslim, and among the many themes he has painted are a few paintings of Hindu deities in the nude. These works were completed and first displayed decades ago, but since the mid-1990s Hindu nationalists have campaigned against him, saying his work insulted their faith. They attacked galleries exhibiting his works, threatened him with violence, and filed lawsuits against him. The state attached some of his property and police officers issued arrest warrants against him, even as the Delhi High Court (and later the Supreme Court) ruled in his favor and officials publicly praised him. Unwilling to trust the state to protect him, Mr. Husain, who has lived abroad much of the past decade, gave up his nationality.
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