S Hareesh is a prolific Malayalam-language writer hailing from the small town of Neendoor in Kottayam district of Kerala. He is employed with the state government, working as a village assistant near his home. The 43-year-old’s works revolve around the pertinent social issues and complex caste realities of yesteryear Kerala. Through his writing, readers get a rare view of the local lores, the customs and traditions rarely explored in such magnificent detail in the state’s literary scene.
Hareesh is the winner of the 2016 Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for his collection of short stories titled ‘Aadam’. His other works include ‘Rasavidhyayude Charitram’, ‘Appan’ and ‘Modasthathanayangu Vasippu Malamele’. The film ‘Aedan’ released this year and directed by Sanju Surendran is based on Hareesh’s work ‘Aadam’. An upcoming film ‘Jallikattu’ directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery is also said to be based on one of Hareesh’s short-stories.
Though readers fond of Malayalam fiction-writing are synonymous with Hareesh, his name attracted larger attention last month when Hindutva outfits took umbrage at a certain section of his novel ‘Meesha’ which was serialised for the popular Malayalam weekly, Mathrubhumi. They alleged that he was insulting temple-going Hindu women in the novel and therein, the core values of Hinduism.
The controversy erupted on a massive scale when Hareesh and his family began receiving threats from fringe outfits through the telephone and on social media. The writer initially responded by switching off his phone and deactivating his Facebook account. But the outrage didn’t stop there. When it began taking a more vicious form, Hareesh decided to suspend the publication of his serialised novel right after the third installment. He said that he does not have the mental strength to go up against those ruling the country and would wait until the society becomes more mature and tolerant to receive his work. Last week, DC Books, a leading publisher in Kerala which has brought out Hareesh’s earlier works, published ‘Meesha’ in a book format after getting permission from the writer. DC Books said in a statement on Facebook that it always stood with its readers and its writers. Several copies of the book were burned in state capital Thiruvananthapuram upon its publication.
The ruling Left has defended Hareesh citing the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, speaking out against the attempts of right-wing forces to silence writers and critics. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the novelist must not be perturbed by threats and should boldly go ahead with his writing.