The Indian Herald

The Indian Herald

January 21, 2012

Jaipur Literary Festival takes 'Satanic turn', Salman Rushdie skips event

Controversy was lead news on TV channels 
The Jaipur Literary Festival took a 'satanic turn' as certain English writers read out from Salman Rushdie's banned book to express their disappointment over the writer's failure to turn up at the event.

The festival organisers tried to stop these writers. However, these writers claimed that it was their protest against the so-called attack on freedom of expression in the country.

Noted writer Amitava Kumar, Kashmiri Pandit author Hari Kunzru and a little-known author Ruchir Joshi read out passages from Rushdie's book Satanic Verses. However, the protest didn't go down well with everyone and also invited criticism.

Interestingly, the writers claimed that there was threat to Rushdie's life though no organisation had issued any threat against Rushdie, who has been living in Britain after Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against his blasphemous book.

Some Muslim groups had organised demonstrations and protests to demand that Indian government did not allow Rushdie to step into the country. The Indian government however said that Rushdie didn't need visa because of his Person of Indian Origin (PIO) status.

On social networking websites especially twitter, people had contrasting views. While some lauded the unique protest, others said that it was childish because Rushdie had shown cowardly behaviour and didn't come to India unlike Taslima Nareen who faced threats but still lived in India for years.

Channels claimed there was threat to Rushdie though it was said to be on the basis of certain 'intelligence inputs' or Rushdie's imaginary fears. In the past also he has attended the festival in Rajasthan that had passed off peacefully.

Interestingly, the issue of self-styled progressive writers and vocal middle-class silence for not showing similar solidarity to MF Husain who had painted Bharat Mata and faced threats from right-wing Hindu groups was raised.

Users mentioned that authors and intellectuals hadn't shown the guts and courage to support Husain. Except Amitava Kumar, no other writer of repute got into the controversy. A poet Jeet Thayil and a lesser known writer Samit Basu also read passages from the novel.

There were sharp arguments among users on Facebook and twitter. While there were supporters for the move who justified the act as it was not outlawed to read the book, others termed it as a drama. In process the literary festival was the loser as focus shifted on Rushdie despite his absence, instead of the current writing scenario.

TIH Bureau

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