The Karnataka Police, bowing to pressure from right-wing Hindutva organisations, arrested theatre person, artist and writer Yogesh Master from his residence on 29 August for allegedly controversial remarks against Hindu diety Ganapati in his novel ‘Dhundi’. The police booked the writer under Section 295 A ( Deliberate intent to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code. Out on bail, during the discussion of his book on 5 September, Yogesh Master said that his book was a work of fiction and his remarks in the novel were not intended to hurt anybody’s religious feelings, but were based on research on the concept and origins of Ganesha as depicted in mythology.
September 5, 2013 Print FriendlyPrint & EmailComment
Yogesh Master Photo: Imran Khan
How do you view the controversy surrounding your book?
I never anticipated such a controversy regarding my writing. I have been a writer since 1984, when my first book was published. I lead a very quiet life. My small theatre group (Rajamarga) is my world. However, Dhundhi somehow dragged me into chaos. Now I am learning to develop patience and presence of mind. I’m still absorbing all that is happening around Dhundhi and me.
What is your response to the allegations that you insulted the Hindu deity Ganapati in your novel?
I completely deny such allegations. Ganapati is a tribal hero in my novel. He represents Aranyakas (aboriginals or tribesmen) and the fight against the so-called civilised society which exploited them. Ganapati’s rebelliousness is an unexplored aspect of his personality. My book is a work of fiction based on research on mythological stories and the concept of Ganapati’s origin.
Did you expect that you would be arrested?
It was completely unexpected. Even the controversy surrounding the book was not expected. I just waited to see what would happen next.
Are you shocked that you were arrested under the Congress government led by Siddaramaiah?
I am not politically biased. But still, I cannot understand this move of the Congress government which is secular. Besides, Mr. Siddaramaiah, the Chief Minister, has a socialist background.
What is your novel Dhundhi about?
Dhundhi is the one of several names of Ganapati. In Kashi, there is a temple dedicated to Dhundhi. In India and many other parts of the world, people consider myths precious and avoid examining their roots. They fear that such scrutiny may shake their beliefs and spoil the sanctity of their religion or ethics. Myths are not merely stories: they contain sensitive truths and abstract thoughts. We need to examine myths in order to know the roots of our culture. In Dhundhi, I tried to throw light on the myths and facts about Ganapati. I attempted to find a connection between mythology and factual research. The emphasis of the book is not religious, but cultural and social. I was inspired by the writings of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya on Ganapati in his book Lokayata. From being a troublemaker, Ganapati became the custodian of goodwill and success. The story of this transformation is the saga of Dhundhi, a rebellious tribesman.
Did you expect Dhundhi to court controversy before its publication?
Never. I anticipated some intellectual debates though, but that too after some time – after people read the book.
What is the current status of your legal case?
I was summoned for a hearing on 28 September. Since it is my very first experience of this kind, I am dependent on my lawyer and other well-wishers.
Are you working on another novel?
Yes, I am working on Premanagara, a love story set in 1784 against the backdrop of Tipu Sultan’s reign. It will be published soon.
Are there plans to get Dhundhi translated to other languages?
Yes, Dhundhi is being translated into English. The translation is almost done. Other languages? No idea, let me see.