Now if one does not understand Shakespeare, what is his or her fault? He wrote and dramatized inspiring stories during the European golden age of literature. So, if the court’s order is akin to stating that Shakespeare is at fault as the common man failed to understand his plays, then what an observation it was! One is at a loss for words here.
By Paojel Chaoba
This is what happened. A Manipuri scholar who goes by his social media nom de guerre Captain Murugun gave a comment on Facebook, loaded with intended sarcasm, intentional satire and comprehensively denouncing the racist treatment that many from Northeast India have experienced in the mainland. And all of us knew exactly what he wanted to convey. This comment followed Mirabai Chanu of Manipur bagging a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Murugun, by his own admission, was so proud, so happy, so exhilarated that a daughter of Manipur outclassed every single weightlifter in her category and contest eventually becoming the second-best in the World, speaking plainly.
Though the way Murugun spelled the success of Mirabai and also read the floodgate of accolades opened in India, his way of venting out his views was reportedly not in consonance with some self-styled public mood readers on social media. His reaction was perhaps misunderstood and soon after a local club sounded the battle bugle or the conch depending on one’s cultural interpretation through social media demanding the arrest of Murugun.
They insisted that the police should arrest the scholar for his supposedly unkind and unpatriotic comment and for criticizing Mirabai’s achievement! Clearly, there was a failure to communicate between Murugun and the representatives of Mongsangei Kanba Lup. Jumping the gun was another popular film personality, RK Kaiku also at face value, criticized and condemned Murugan’s post. The renowned actor later made an apology on social media. A welcoming gesture from the actor to be able to admit that he made a mistake and misread the comment. He took the courage to admit that he actually goofed up. A brave and courageous man indeed. Now, what do learn here?
“What we have here is failure to communicate,” says a line by then Guns and Roses frontman and rock star Axel Rose in his popular song ‘Civil War’. There was obviously a failure of communication between the intended sarcasm of Murugan was lost on the ‘innocence’ of the Mongsangei club.
Another issue, we do not know if the police acted on the complaint of the club demanding the arrest of Murugun. The police had submitted that there was no complaint filed against Murugan in response to the Court’s order demanding to know if there were any complaints from anyone. There were no complaints against Murugan. No charges mean that one is not bound to be punished under the Indian Penal Code, the IPC. Yet, Murugan, a student of film studies in his artistic trauma gave an apology to the police stating that he never meant to criticize anyone in his post but that his “satire was misunderstood”. So, Murugan apologized for a crime that he never-never ever committed. What we had here is a failure to communicate.
The court in its proceedings deemed it fit that there was no need to grant anticipatory bail to Murugan and that there was no FIR filed. He feared that he might be arrested, (for reasons best known to him.) If indeed, the police picked him up, it would be an interesting investigation and to see if the investigating officer could make out of the sarcasm, satire and to literally decipher Murugun’s Facebook post using all available options – legally and literally. With translation from the dictionary, we would be able to know if Murugan was a trouble maker or an artistic individual who had his own way of communication. The means of communication varies from individual to individual. A poet writes poetry, a painter paints, a lawyer communicates in law, etc. Murugan said it in the way he knew best, and it was in the best interest of not only Mirabai Chanu but for the whole Northeastern community who has long been bearing the brunt of racism.
The words of abuses “chinki, chow chow, momo” factor and numerous more incidents of sexual harassment to Northeast women are still evident. In the Murugan case, the court observed that he might have written in a manner that may have been difficult to decipher or read between the lines and the Mongsangei club may not be at fault as the texts may have been difficult to understand. That is up to the court to pronounce the judgment, but in this case- there was no case. No one filed a complaint against Murugan. Yet, the court deemed it fit to give observation in a case where there was no case at all if one gets it right as it is the way a layman observes.
We are not in proximity nor acquainted with the code of criminal procedure, but the main thing is that we do know deep in our hearts that what is the irrefutable truth and also what is right and what sounds wrong or false. One knows that speaking out well within the confines of the freedom of expression is not a crime, one knows that the proceedings of a particular court may not be fair, that the judgment may leave a foul taste in the mouth that many decisions of the courts may need to be taken with a pinch of salt. One does not agree that activist Stan Swami had to die in prison, one does not agree that it took the court weeks to give him a straw and a sipper to have his daily nutrition, a senior citizen with Parkinson’s disease. One does not agree that every Facebook user who is critical of the government merits intimidation of being called up by police and harassed. It is not fair that an individual should be slapped with sedition under 124-A, UAPA or NSA just for giving his views which are under one’s constitutional rights. It feels right and it is right to say that archaic British laws like Sedition must go.
As one observes, the lady of justice seems no longer blind but winks her eye to those who are wealthy, those who are powerful, and the balance she holds seems to tilt in favour of the side of the influential. The common man is left standing at the gates of justice with a begging bowl which is seldom filled. For years and decades, the common man waits and sometimes the bowl remains empty but only with a promise that the next day of hearing may fill the bowl. The date goes on and on and the most available result in our courtrooms seem to be ‘the next date’ only, some say that the ‘balance’ weighs on the side of power, of influence and corruption, of paisa.
Let legal jargons be another thing alien to the layman and his shouts for justice may seldom be heard. Let us come back to Murugun, If one cannot understand the beauty of Mozart’s symphony, if one is not able to understand Freudian concepts, if one is not able to understand the Einstien theory of relativity, if one is not able to appreciate a Picasso painting, is that the fault of the person who drew the masterpiece or the person who fails to appreciate them all. The order of the court seems to imply that Murugan is at fault because he wrote in a manner that was not comprehensible to many. And perhaps that it would be better if Murugan wrote in a language like any layman, like film star Rekha or rather her fan page update. The court seems to focus on simplicity and that sarcasm and satire are incomprehensible to many.
Now if one does not understand Shakespeare, what is his or her fault? He wrote and dramatized inspiring stories during the European golden age of literature. So, if the court’s order is akin to stating that Shakespeare is at fault as the common man failed to understand his plays, then what an observation it was! One is at a loss for words here. So, if one is to learn satire and sarcasm as per the judge’s observation, pray tell where one can learn to be Shakespeare? Satire and sarcasm are artistic traits and an inborn quality like being a comedian. One can try being a comedian but when the audience is not laughing, it would be obvious that the man has no gift of the gab or talented sense of humour. He should consider changing his occupation.
Similarly, a judge’s observation and judgment may not be as expected and it is the right of the individual to say that the observation does not sit well with him, or perhaps one may be lost in interpretation like the public, like the club of Mongsangei on Murugan’s harsh take on reality. The judge should hold true to his observation that the public is not to blame but the person who do not know how to write satire is, similarly one may not know the judicial translation of a judge’s order and we are the public and cannot be blamed if we are lost in translation also. At the very least, we will say “can I English you”?