Muzzle on freedom or political gimmick?

Muzzle on freedom or political gimmick?


The Jaipur Literature Festival is marred by controversies after Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie decided to pull out of Asia’s largest literary festival fearing threat to his life.

INTELLECTUAL GATHERING Jaipur Literature Festival gathers momentum. After protests by some Muslim organisations demanding that the author of the banned novel The Satanic Verses shouldn’t be allowed in the country, there is resentment and outrage among the writers and intellectuals who describe the incident as a “muzzle on the freedom of speech and expression.”

Metrolife discovers that the incident has revoked mixed reactions from the authors who are not attending the festival. Writer of Bandicoots in the Moonlight Avijit Ghosh says that the timing of the protest needs to be kept in mind as the author has visited India many times after writing The Satanic Verses.

“Salman Rushdie has visited India several times since he wrote The Satanic Verses. Nobody protested before. Hence the timing of the protest needs to be kept in mind,” he says. To him, the protests are also an attempt to gain publicity as the Jaipur Literature Festival has acquired international audience too.

“The attempt obviously is to gain mileage out of it. Besides, Jaipur Literature Festival has now acquired an international audience. So it provides the perfect platform too,” Avijit adds.

Author of Almost Single Advaita Kala describes Salman Rushdie’s absence from the festival as “an experience lost” and says that the State should have come out and assured him about his safety.

“It is hugely disappointing that an author like Salman Rushdie is not participating in the country’s biggest literary festival. One does look forward to a writer like him. It is an experience lost. Even though the government should have taken him into confidence, the whole controversy and protest has a lot to do with our society that needs to evolve.

Besides, the controversy over the book which was written in 1988 has always been blown out of proportion,” she evinces.

On the contrary, C P Surendran, author of An Iron Harvest, cannot understand all the breast-beating of writers and intellectuals over the whole episode as it was Rushdie's decision not to come for the festival. “Rushdie clearly is not just a literary fiend, he is more: he is a law and order problem. Given that, it is just possible that a potential assassin or two is always at hand. In the event, Rushdie has chosen not to attend the festival. It is his decision, not the State’s as it has not banned him from visiting the country, despite the possibility that his presence might trigger tension,” he says.

According to publishers, the controversy is completely uncalled for and would only increase the popularity of the book and the author. Founder and publisher of Wisdom Tree Shobit Arya says, “The Satanic Verses is banned in India and Rushdie’s visit would not have made any change to its status. Nobody was interested in it till a couple of weeks back. And if Rushdie was allowed to come, nobody would have been interested in it even now. However, after all this, many of them would think, hey what’s the hoopla all about, let me try and grab a copy somehow.”