“It was March in 415AD in Alexandira that the Parabalanis, a group of fanatic Christian terrorists, gathered around the chariot of Hypatia and declared that she was not merely a difficult woman, not merely a philosopher and mathematician, she was a creature of hell. It was she who was turning the entire city against God with her trickery and her spells. She was atheizing Alexandria. And then she was ordered to get down from her chariot and the Church Magistrate seized the ‘pagan’ woman and threw her to the fanatics. They then lynched her, tore her body into pieces and threw what was left of the luminous child of reason onto a pyre and burned her.” –broadly referring to Catherine Nixey’s description of the death of Hypatia in her book The Darkening Age.
Every woman who goes around breaking the idols of false Gods, atheizing the people must be fearing this frightening fate of Hypatia at the hands of fanatics. Nupur Sharma is the editor of Opindia, a news portal which has taken it onto itself to refuse the silken softness of fakery which has been passing on as News for long in India. I have been writing for OpIndia as an independent contributor and that is how and that is how much I know Nupur.
I have initially been exasperated with her demand of having clear citation and references for what I wrote in my article. But later, I got used to it and when I saw these legal hounds chase her with a planned vengeance as Prashant Bhushan urged his leftist friends to drown the opposing ideology in a flood of FIRs, I much appreciated her painstaking and often stubborn insistence to seek reference for historical articles as I argued and eventually succumbed.
I saw her other day on Republic, struggling with her soft voice and respectful tone struggling to speak over the loud, vociferous and indignant rant of another women panelist. She appeared to be having a very vulnerable demeanor, which gives no hint of the steely soul which she hides inside. All the FIRs against her have been stayed.
The leftist lady on the panel, niece to the actor who had claimed to be scared in India on account of his religion, shouted her lungs out, stating that it was only a stay and not the vindication. Those who were celebrating the bail of riot-accused Islamist Safoora Zargar on humanitarian ground were quick to point out that the liberation from the maze of law built around Nupur and OpIndia team is still away.
That Nupur is a woman and mother to a toddler is besides the point. Nupur is an editor who is being harassed by illegal questioning by a Police cell, at the behest of local political leadership of West Bengal, under the pressure of Leftist-Liberal cabal is more important. It is more important that even registration of an FIR against the leftist journalists who are not even editor elicits immediate condemnation from the Editor’s Guild of India, but the harassment of Nupur Sharma, who IS an editor does not get even a pretense of disinterested disapproval demonstrates the fault lines of Indian intellectual class.
With this almost illegal Police action by West Bengal Police, Nupur Sharma stands with Romesh Thapar and Mazrooh Sultanpuri harassed by Jawaharlal Nehru government and numerous other journalists jailed and troubled by Indira Gandhi in Congress tradition of democracy. This incident reduces Editor’s Guild of India led by Shekhar Gupta who leads an outrageously separatist and communalist rag called The Print, into a Carrom Board Club of jobless goons on the street Corner. These Press clubs and Editors’ Guild it seems are nothing but national nuisance. They have allowed themselves to fall beyond redemption.
Another worthy of the party of Mamata Bannerjee, Anirban, on camera, said that OpIndia should be banned. These are the same people who run around shouting Fascism if anything as much as rebuttal is written on the propaganda pieces that they mostly write. While the first instance of book burning goes back to 213 BCE when the Chinese Emperor Shih Huang Ti decided to burn books and scholars (China does not seem to have moved far from those dark days), so that the history of China might begin with him, its most recent history goes to the Nationalist Socialist or Nazi party of Germany under Hitler in 1933.
The thought has always remained dear to the Communists as scholars and artists went untraced earlier in Russia and later China. Now those who trace their links to Fascism, Stalinism and Maoism have merged into one in India. This thought of banning a news portal is not different from the idea of Chinese Emperor to burn the books and scholars.
Mamata Bannerjee was an active young member of Student’s wing of Congress during Emergency and it is a surprise and lack of understanding of History of the common people that she today poses as a big defender of democracy and cries Emergency every now and then whenever her little fiefdom is threatened by the law of the land. What her spokesperson says, says with her clearance, open or otherwise. Neither was she ever a democrat nor is her party. This portal-banning and book burning idea runs from the top of the political forces who claim to be fighting to free India from fascism of Modi government. We need to be worried about this.
We need to worry about Nupur for she lives in Mamata’s state. It is not about Nupur Sharma, the person, the woman, the mother. It is about what Nupur Sharma represents- the iconoclast, the person who is bringing down the demi-Gods carefully created by the cunning gang of crafty intellectuals, post-independence and mostly, post-Emergency when the left prostrated in front of Indira’s ruthless repression. She is the force which is atheizing Indian democracy. She is cleaning up the intellectual space like the modern-age Hypatia.
And for that she needs to be defended and her victory, however small it might be, ought to be celebrated. An independent-minded woman epitomizes a society which is propelled by intellectual prowess, not by animal force of physical strength. This is what Hypatia represented. The collapse of the intellectual edifice of Ancient Rome did not begin in 532 AD when the last seven teachers of the famous Academy of Plato left. It started when Hypatia was brought down.
It marked the fall of intellectual liberty, it marked the devaluation of mind as a currency of power in the society. Therefore, we need to be very watchful of how the strong and powerful of our society treat the Hypatias of our times. Nupur has taken up a big task. The thought she represents, the team she works with is changing the way we read news. It is irreverential, truthful and blunt.
It fears none and it opens its portals for lesser-mortals. That is why it must be defended. There are fanatics lurking around us in dark corners, sipping their Champagnes and cursing the ordinary folks who have invaded their cozy, little world of journalism where they played havoc on the unsuspecting minds with impunity. As Ray Bradbury said, in his celebrated book Fahrenheit 451,
“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matchsticks.”