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Posts tagged ‘freedom of speech’

Hurting the religious sentiments of others.


Blasphemy by a Poetess – Lucille

The above is a poem by Lucille Clifton, once poet laureate of the State of Maryland in the USA.
The poem is drawing its imagery from the Rod of Moses, which was cast by him before the Pharaoh which turned into a serpent. Another imagery deployed in the poem is also from the life of Moses, when he saw the burning bush, out of which Jehovah spoke to Moses during his stay with his Midianite Father-in-law Jethro.
I would fain explain the contents of the poem were it not to lead to an inescapable conclusion that I relish smut. Consequently, I refrain from expatiating the contents thereof. However, I’d like to furnish the title of the poem, “To A Dark Moses”. That this poem has been written by a “poetess” gives greater credence to the intensity and meaning of the iconic imagery around which this short poem is woven.
If this poem were to have been penned by a male poet, the question would be on authenticity and a natural question: How would he know?, unless he were a Tiresias with a distinct memory of both his existences!

In any case, taking a Biblical imagery and revered characters out of the Bible and portraying it in matters relating to carnal matters in a kind of this poem would in no way have ingratiated herself to the Christian community which would have bothered to read it.
But it is also a point that since she was a Poet Laureate, this poem must have been scrutinised by the puritans of his time. Probably, it was their ilk which prevented her from winning the Pulitzer Prize, though having been a finalist twice.
In India, we are a touchy lot. When our icons are drawn to furnish parallels on carnal matters, there is a serious risk of the poet running not only ‘offending the religious sentiments of fellowmen and fellow women, but may even trigger riots and reprisals of the worst kind.
I am sure that in the US no such things happened, as poets like Ginsberg, EE Cummings, Plath, Bob Dylan had already liberated free expression from the thorny sensitivities of the Christian folks, by then.
I had serendipitously fallen on the Judgement of a Madras High Court Justice by name Seshasayee, recently, wherein the Hon’ble Justice had averred that there was no need of any legislation laying down ‘reasonable restrictions’ in terms of Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, by the Legislature or the Executive, but that it was the ‘Duty’ of every citizen to respect the sentiments of his fellow citizens. The Hon’ble Justice goes on to state that when a citizen demands a ‘Right’, he has to also observe the ‘Duty’ cast on him as they are jurisprudentially correlatives.
My understanding of Hohfeld is that when I have a Right, then the Jural correlative would be a Duty on the other and not on the person who has a Right.
Secondly, when the State is infringing in my justiciable Rights, how far would the argument be correct that I have to be Duty bound by the nebulous sensitivities of all humans in India who could be affected by my freedom of speech and expression?
The Fundamental Duties in Article 51A of the Constitution is worded as a positive command and non justiciable, consequently enforceability would be lacking.
May be the judgement is a good step towards building harmony by making those persons who provide a platform for others to conduct programs, responsible; however, how could the police take action based on an assurance given to the police and other civic authorities on behalf of a person who has been guaranteed Fundamental Rights Himself?
Seems we are poised for interesting times with the elections round the corner.

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