Hounded Tamil Author Perumal Murugan Set to Join New College Posting Away From Home

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Chennai:  Tamil author and professor Perumal Murugan, who gave up writing after he was hounded by Hindu fundamentalist and caste groups, would join the faculty of the Presidency College in Chennai today. His wife, a member of the Tamil faculty, would join Queen Mary’s College in the city. Both had sought transfer, fearing for their life in their hometown of Namakal, where they used to teach at the government college.

Hindu groups and caste outfits in Namakal had protested and even observed a bandh last month against Perumal Murugan’s novel, Madhorubhagan, saying it showed their women and their temple in bad light. The novel had been published in 2010, and has also been translated in English, as One Part Woman.

The story revolves around an ancient tradition that allowed childless women to have sex outside marriage, in the hope of bearing a child.

The author had apologised and explained that it was a work of fiction. Sources close to Mr Murugan have said the police, who had arranged peace meetings with protesters, reportedly coerced him to sign an allegedly illegal agreement withdrawing the book.

They looked at it only “as a law and order issue and they were bent to quell it by hook or crook even if it means compromising fundamental rights” says a close friend of the author.

Peeved, Perumal Murugan announced, “The writer in me is dead,” and withdrew all his writings.

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has moved the Madras High Court seeking a direction to quash the agreement the Namakkal police reportedly made Perumal Murugan sign. The court is set to hear the case on the February 24. “The excuse of law and order cannot be an excuse to barter away fundamental rights because the fundamental rights cannot be the domain or cannot be the subject of compromises. Mobs, today control free speech and expression and governments, instead of their obligation to protect fundamental rights, actually side with the people who break the law,” says PUCL general secretary V Suresh.

Authors and writers have appealed to Mr Murugan to resume writing. But people close to him say he’s determined and it’s too early now to expect a change of heart.

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