- POSTED: 10 Sep 2013 12:20
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The recent killing of an India author in Afghanistan has highlighted the tussle between artistic freedom and hardline views in India and Afghanistan.
DELHI: The pen is supposed to be mightier than the sword but in Afghanistan, artistic freedom is in danger of being brushed aside as the gun casts its shadow over the pen.
Indian author Sushmita Banerjee was gunned down on September 4 at her home in Paktika province of Afghanistan by suspected Taliban gunmen for writing against them.
Back home in India, her friends are shocked as they come to terms with the brutal death of a social worker who chose to return to Afghanistan despite Taliban threats.
Sushmita moved to Afghanistan in 1989 but made a dramatic escape from the Taliban in 1995.
In 1993, she wrote the book 'Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife' which chronicled her marriage to an Afghan businessman, moving from the eastern Indian city of Kolkata to the Afghan capital Kabul, her alleged harassment by the Taliban and her eventual journey back to India.
The book became so famous that it was eventually made into a Bollywood movie.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said Sushmita's death is a loss for both Afghanistan and India.
India accords great respect to authors, performers and artists so much so that even awards and roads are being named in their honour.
As India's literary community mourns the killing of Sushmita, another controversy is raging in Indian Kashmir.
The region, which has been a land of poets, singers and musicians for ages, is now under a thick blanket of security following communal riots.
And it is now bracing itself for more uncertainty as renowned conductor Zubin Mehta is set to perform in Srinagar.
One vocal critic has laid down the gauntlet saying the hills should not come alive with the western classical music.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a Conservative political leader from Jammu and Kashmir, said: "This is a political programme and they are trying to hide the ground reality of the province."
Zubin has rebutted his claims.
"I didn't choose Kashmir, Kashmir chose me. Music is the message of peace. Music only brings peace," he said.
While the lingering effects of the recent tragic episode in Afghanistan may remain, it will not diminish the work of India's literary community which even under adverse conditions, continue to pursue their art and speak the truth without any fear or fervour.