More than a year after Tamil writer Perumal Murugan declared publicly in a Facebook post that he would stop writing — following a controversy over his novel Madhorubagan — the Madras High Court has quashed a criminal case filed against him by residents of Tiruchengode.
The controversy erupted in early 2015, after members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh burned copies of Madhorubagan, which is set in Tiruchengode. A sit-down in Namakkal — his hometown which Murugan had to leave for some time after threats against his life grew — with the parties involved was held in the month of January, only a few weeks after copies of Murugan’s book had been burned. After the sit-down Murugan was left with no option but to accept the conditions put forth by the dissenting parties (which included issuing a public apology and deleting 'controversial' portions from his book), and announced his "retirement" from all forms of writing.
Translated in English as One Part Woman, the book in question tells the story of a childless couple in Tiruchengode, almost 100 years ago, the travails of bearing children and the pressures to do so. In the book Murugan invoked a 100-year-old festival set in town, the night of which allowed men and women to copulate free of any qualms. That did not go down well with locals of the town and many right-wing activists. Soon after the sit-down with the district authorities in Namakkal, the book was withdrawn from the market. Copies of his translated books (which also include Pyre) can still be found here and there. But the Tamil versions of Murugan’s book are impossible to locate.
On Tuesday, a bench comprising Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice Puspha Sathyanarayana of the Madras High Court deemed the settlement between the district authorities and Murugan last year, as legally not binding. In effect, Murugan’s creative freedom has been restored and he is free to produce books as per the wishes of his most ardent fans.