Panaji – If writers write to please the dispensation and become cheerleaders, it would be harmful to the society, said Jnanpitha awardee Damodar Mauzo, also known for championing freedom of expression.
“We must respect our diversity. We cannot ignore the fact that many members of the minority community fought for the independence of our country. We need to work unitedly to achieve India’s progress. We will not become ‘Vishwa Guru’ just by raising slogans and talking. It is imperative that we recognize and maintain the supremacy of freedom of expression and stand up for our constitutional fundamental rights,” added Mauzo, who is best known for his novel Karmelin in Konkani, which won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1983.
Known for his progressive writings, Mauzo has been given security cover since 2018 following intelligence inputs from the Special Investigation Team investigating the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka, regarding threats to his life.
Speaking to IANS, the author said that he was not afraid of the fringe elements who killed the daring journalist Gauri Lankesh. “They are cowards who are afraid of liberal, progressive and rational foundations. I’m not afraid of them,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that many writers are afraid to stand up to the transgressions of those in the period. Such spinelessness can cause a lot of damage to society. We see what is happening in other countries. Outspoken voices are stifled by repressive forces in countries such as Myanmar, Afghanistan, Russia and even parts of Europe. We do not want this to happen in our country.
“Most writers in good books seem to prefer to work not only with those in power, but also with those harmful and divisive elements in society. As a writer, I feel it is our duty to strive to right any wrongs that have been done to our fellow citizens. We want to lead society to a decent life,” added Mauzo.
Asked if it would be right for politicians to be held responsible for “growing religious hatred”, Mauzo said “it is true and we all know it, although not all politicians are in the same boat”.
“I am angry that our elected officials are jumping from one party to another, where the ideology is completely different, and thereby cheated people’s trust. Such chameleon politicians mislead voters. It is unfortunate that people do not react strongly,” he said.
Bickering politicians working in the interest of their party agenda have made people dependent on themselves.
“Institutions that receive financial support from the state for their operation must not compromise their ideology. I worry about people bending over backwards to get what is rightfully theirs. No one in the government should exploit this weakness of the people to oblige them,” he said.
Mauzo also warned that freedom of speech was always under attack in the past as well. But under constant pressure from intellectuals, governments were forced to exercise their prudence.
“Lately, however, the government is finding that almost everything is a commodity. This is a dangerous situation for every country, every society. It seems that today the government is misusing ED, CBI and other government agencies to listen to the voice of the people.
“It is the responsibility of writers to make people aware of the implications, not by preaching, but by our persuasive writings. This does not mean that we have to criticize the government on all points. We also have a duty to appreciate the good moves of the government,” he said, adding that the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir was a good step, “though its intent and implementation may be questionable”.
Talking about the menace of casinos, drugs and dance bars in Goa, Mauzo said that such things cannot happen unless there is patronage of some dignitaries in power.
“When people opposed casinos in Goa, expecting them to spoil the moral fabric of Goan society, the government made a rule that locals would not be allowed in the casinos. Who can believe that this will help?” he asked.
Mauzo, who stays 10 meters away from the railway line from where the coal is transported, said that such decisions by the government have suffocated nature and the environment.
“Coal is being transported from in front of my house by rail. My newly painted house turned black with a layer of coal dust within six months. You will see that the leaves of the plant are covered with coal dust. I don’t know how much coal dust went into my lungs. Such damage must be prevented.
“They don’t use closed wagons because they are afraid that the friction will cause ignition. So the wagons are only covered with tarpaulins. Our environment and nature are getting damaged because of this coal transport. Since the government is in majority, they don’t seem to care about our vote,” he said.
Recalling his childhood days of commuting to school from Majorda to Margao on the West Indian Portuguese Railway, he said, “There were only two passenger trains on the route then. But because freight trains carrying mining ores had priority, passenger trains were always delayed. So one fine day the regular drivers met the authorities and complained about the irregularity. The Portuguese colonial authorities then openly told the passengers that they did not care about the passenger trains running on time. Freight trains were preferred because they brought better revenue, they openly claimed.
“They were colonial rulers, there was no democracy at that time. Today we have a democracy. We are freed, but still why is our voice destroyed?”
Speaking about freedom of expression, Mauzo said: “As writers, we have a hard time. Publishers are hard to find. Writers are hardly awarded, leave aside the awarded ones. If it’s a good art book that might not be to the taste of some fundamentalists, it probably won’t get a publisher.”
He concluded with hope, saying, “However, I am optimistic that we WILL see better times. We have to be vigilant, watchful and courageous enough to stand against anything that is not in the interest of the society.” (IANS)
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