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Why award-winning writer Joe D’Cruz is embroiled in a court case but getting little support

Author: R Ramasubramanian
Publication: Scroll.in
Date: June 8, 2015
URL: http://scroll.in/article/732795/why-award-winning-writer-joe-dcruz-is-facing-threats-and-a-court-case-but-getting-little-support

Is the novelist's avowed support for Modi the reason for the lack of protests against the defamation case filed against him?

Joe D’Cruz, a Tamil novelist and a strong supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – which makes him a minority among the Tamil intelligentsia – has been taken to court for his 2009 Sahitya Adademi award-winning novel Korkai.

The reason? The complainant Alagara Bharathavar, who is the leader of a fishermen’s association, alleges that D’Cruz has portrayed an objectionable picture of promiscuity among the fisherwomen of Tuticorin and the entire seashore area of the region.

But unlike the the cases of Perumal Murugan and Puliyur Murugesan, both of whom were threatened and intimidated, leading Murugan to announce his "death" as a writer, there has been little support for D’Cruz from fellow-writers. His political position has isolated him.

The case against D’Cruz

The complainant has also said  that the novel had portrayed Christianity, fishermen, priests, and nuns in such a bad light that anyone who is not extremely familiar with the area will believe the contents of the novel to be true. The private criminal and civil defamation case has been filed by  Bharathavar, general secretary of the Meenavar Viduthalai Iyakkam (fishermen liberation movement) in the court of Judicial Magistrate II, Tuticorin district, in Tamil Nadu.

The Magistrate has admitted the petition and issued a summons to Joe D’Cruz to appear before his court on June 12. However, D’Cruz is not shying away from the confrontation. Born into a community of fishermen, he is a writer with strong convictions. Ironically, he expressed this not in the usual context of Tamil literature, but in the form of declaring his support to Modi in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – a political position that clearly defies the thinking in literary circles in the state.

The backlash for his position

In a Facebook post, D’Cruz had praised Modi openly, saying that he was confident of the BJP leader ringing in fundamental changes and ushering great development into the country. One outcome: Navayana, the Delhi-based publisher, and V Geetha, the translator of his Tamil novel Aazhi Sool Ulagu (Ocean-Ringed World) – which won a Tamil Nadu state government award in 2005 –  decided not to publish the translation. However, D’Cruz asserts that a translation of the novel will now be brought out by Oxford University Press.

As for the defamation case, D’Cruz is standing his ground firmly. “The complainant has included Aazhi Sool Ulagu along with Korkai," he told Scroll.in over the phone.  "He has selectively cited certain paragraphs to suggest that the novels speak against fishermen community. This is completely wrong."

The writer argues that those steeped in old customs are not able to tolerate the truth being told – having realised that their affluent lifestyles cannot be sustained forever, they have started attacking him in different ways. “I got threats from some groups even while I was going to receive the Sahitya Akademi award in New Delhi,” he said. “There were calls warning me that I would be eliminated on my way to Delhi. Now they have chosen to go to court. I will fight this legally and my legal team will devise a strategy to counter this assault.”

The writer believes that his novels have in fact drawn the attention of the world to the untold sufferings and longings of his community.  “Novels are different from articles," he said. "A novel is a gazette of the times about we talk and live in.  Those who oppose the novels are seeing themselves reflected in the cruel characters. But even these protests are healthy, because this shall create a positive effect towards the betterment of the community.”

Scant support from writers

However, D’Cruz is disappointed, if not angry, by the response of civil society in general and of writers in particular. The support that the writers’ community in the state extended to Murugan and Murugesan when they faced intimidation and ostracisation appears to be missing. “I am not bothered,” he said. “But look at the double standards. I fought for Perumal Murugan and condemned the threats. But where are those so-called progressive writers today?”

Is D’Cruz’s avowed support for Modi the reason for the lack of protests against the defamation case filed against him? Even if that is the case, the writer is unwilling to change his political stance. An employee of a shipping company in Chennai, D’Cruz visited Gujarat 28 times when Modi was the chief minister. He says that he was impressed by Modi’s work in Gujarat, which is why he extended his support to him. “The results will not be known in just a year’s time,” he argued, weighing Modi’s performance as prime minister. “I am ready to wait.”
 
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