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Salman Rushdie decries India’s failure to protect free speech at Jaipur literary festival

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Salman Rushdie has launched a fierce attack on the Indian government for pandering to extremist Muslim groups and failing to protect freedom of speech after threats of violence forced him to withdraw from a top literature festival.

His planned appearance in conversation with a leading news presenter was cancelled at the last minute after the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival received death threats and the police warned of violence inside the venue and riots outside from Muslim protesters if it went ahead.

According to eyewitnesses, a group of around 50 Muslim men had infiltrated the crowd shortly before the session was due to begin an dwere intimidating members of the audience to give up their seats. Organisers were said to bewildered over how they managed to get past a bar code security pass system and hundreds of police. Jaipur’s police commissioner B. L Soni said protesters had earlier registered as delegates and were present inside in significant numbers.

In a television interview Salman said he believed the government had sought to stop him from appearing at the festival to win Muslim votes in its key Uttar Pradesh state election campaign and had circuited “fantastically fishy” intelligence reports of assassination plots to stop him to force his withdrawal.

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Posted by on January 24, 2012. Filed under Europe,UK. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to Salman Rushdie decries India’s failure to protect free speech at Jaipur literary festival

  1. Zubair Khan

    January 25, 2012 at 7:33 am

    What chairman of Press Council India said about him just read:Salman Rushdie is a “poor” and “substandard writer” who would have remained largely unknown but for his controversial book ‘Satanic Verses’, according to Markandey Katju, till recently a judge of the Supreme Court.
    Katju, who is now the Chairman of Press Council of India, criticised the admirers of India-born author based in Britain, saying they suffered from “colonial inferiority complex” that a writer living abroad has to be great.
    “Salman Rushdie dominated the Jaipur Literature Festival. I do not wish to get into the controversy whether banning him was correct or not. I am raising a much more fundamental issue,” he said in a statement here.
    “I have read some of Rushdie’s works and am of the opinion that he is a poor writer, and but for ‘Satanic Verses’ would have remained largely unknown. Even ‘Midnight’s Children’ is hardly great literature,” Katju contended.
    He went on to add that the “whole problem with the so-called educated Indians of today is that they still suffer from the colonial inferiority complex. So whoever lives in London and New York must be a great writer, while writers living in India are inferior.”

    On the controversy surrounding Rushdie during the festival which ended yesterday, he said, “I am not in favour of religious obscurantism. But neither do I wish to elevate a sub-standard writer into a hero.”

    Referring to the Jaipur festival, Katju said one would have expected “serious discussion on literature, particularly indigenous literature” of the likes of Kabir, Premchand, Sharat Chandra, Manto, Ghalib, Faiz, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Subramania Bharti.

    “Kabir and Tulsidas are no good because they lived on the ghats of Benaras, whereas Rushdie is great because he lives on the ghats of the Thames! This is the mental level of our ‘intellectuals and ‘literati’,” the former SC judge said.

    Katju maintained that the whole history of the great Indian literature, rich in its variety, from Valmiki and Vyas to modern times should have been discussed.

    There could also have been a discussion on foreign writers like Dickens, Shaw, Victor Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Upton Sinclair, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gorki and Pablo Neruda, he said.

    “Instead the total focus at Jaipur appeared to be Rushdie. Two personalities linked with films were projected as ‘the finest poets’ in India, though to my mind their work is of a very inferior order. This is the low level to which the Jaipur Festival sank,” Katju contended.
    He said India is facing massive socio-economic problems today and literature should address these. “The struggle which Kabir waged against narrow sectarianism, which Sharat Chandra waged against the caste system and women’s oppression, which Faiz waged against despotism, which Subramania Bharti waged for nationalism and women’s emancipation, which Dickens and Gorki waged against exploitation and social injustice – these are the matters which should have been discussed at Jaipur. Instead, Rushdie dominated most of the show,” he said.

  2. Hibatur Rehman

    January 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Thanks for posting an excellent comment on this topic. Indeed the truth about Rushdie is said in the most appropriate manner, I could not agree more.

  3. anwar,

    January 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Too bad, Mr Katju failed to mentioned AHMAD FARAZ, one of the greatest poet of our times & champion of civil-liberties/human-rights.

  4. Muhammad Azimul Haque

    January 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Salman Rushdi belongs to the Muslim heartland of India. He and fanatic Muslims have many things in common. One of them is to sensationalise things and create non-sense out of nothing.
    Media which is hungry to find out “spice”, becomes natural friend of such muslims and people who have some sort of background from “Muslim society”.

    He is like an election campaigner for the Right winger Saffron political parties in this issue. It will be fare to say that things were calculated well in advance.
    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/upa-behind-disruption-of-salman-rushdies-address-arun-jaitley/articleshow/11632646.cms

    What is important to say is that. Had bad not been there, no one will know what good is. This event united all sensible individuals from diverse backgrounds against use of literary societies for polarising society.
    Anupam Kher, leading bollywood actor:
    http://ibnlive.in.com/news/rushdie-issue-has-been-politicised-anupam-kher/223460-40-100.html
    Chetan Bhagat, leading writer, graduate from IIT, IIM and youth icon:
    http://books.hindustantimes.com/2012/01/dont-treat-banned-books-authors-as-heroes-chetan-bhagat/