There’s a big difference between going to the Jaipur litfest as a journalist and as a writer’s spouse. As the latter, all I had to do was to tick the sessions I wanted to attend—not as easy as it sounds at the Jaipur litfest, which offers 35 mind-watering options a day to choose from. Then make my way to the tent in time to grab a seat—a feat more or less as chancy as winning a lottery and leaving you with the same sense of undeserved bounty. Which is how I kept missing all the action on the Salman Rushdie front. On Day One, for instance, my lively fear of author readings kept me out of the two sessions where the action apparently was: readings by Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar, followed by more readings by Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi. How was I to know that while I was engrossed in listening to British playwright David Hare and literary prize jurists discussing how they picked their winning books, these four writers were busy throwing bombshells by reading from Salman Rushdie’s banned Satanic Verses?
In fact, even those who did attend the session didn’t have a clue that they were hearing extracts from the famed Rushdie rather than what they had come to hear until the authors themselves enlightened them. I heard of it only hours later, from that most reliable and pleasurable sources of litfest news: the cocktail circuit, where authors, publishers and well-connected journalists gather for the litfest’s major attraction—the after-hours party. This one was at Rambagh Palace, thrown by Random House for their authors attending the litfest. There was some buzz about two or three, or maybe even four, authors being cross-examined by the police, that the organisers were in a tizzy, and the litfest may come to an abrupt end, embroiled in a police case even before it had got rolling. But no one paid much attention: there were so many clever, writerly people looking forward to five days of talking and networking to believe that sordid things like politics and legal hassles could end this party forever.
Grumbling had started among the writers as well. H.S. Shivaprakash, Kannada poet and translator, who had been invited to the litfest for a session on women mystics, broke into yet another briefing the organisers were holding at the writers’ lounge on the Rushdie crisis. They were explaining to the writers what they could say and not say about Rushdie at their sessions—protests were alright, but not readings from his banned book. “There are other things to talk about at this litfest besides Rushdie,” Shivaprakash interjected. “There are other forms of censorship that we want to talk about, like the Dalit writings.” Afterwards, he confided how sick he was of the absent Rushdie taking centrestage, “stealing the limelight from writers better than him”.
Tamil novelist, poet and playwright Charu Nivedita was even more cross. His session with Telugu Dalit writer Gogu Shyamala had been “hijacked” by the Rushdie issue, he claimed. The moderator, independent publisher S. Anand, set the tone for the session by reading aloud from Rushdie’s book. No one else had noticed, and Anand left the venue without being discovered, but Nivedita found it hard to forgive him for turning the focus on Rushdie from Dalit writers.
JLF organiser Sanjoy Roy announcing the cancellation of the link
It’s a point of view that his new-found acquaintance, Carl Ernst, an American professor of Islamic studies and author of How to Read the Quran, empathises with. According to Ernst, Rushdie was asking for trouble from the beginning of this litfest. “He could have come quietly, as he did in 2007, as just another author, instead of asking to be announced on the programme. It might have been fun.” He is less severe, though, on the young authors who rose to Rushdie’s support. While admitting that they did “hijack the litfest’s agenda” and chose the wrong platform for their protest, Ernst adds: “They were chafing at the censorship regime.”
By Sunday, both Rushdie and his four supporters were overshadowed by something even larger: Oprah Winfrey. The session was scheduled for 11.15 am but crowds started pouring in to the venue by early morning. By 10.30, there was no standing room at Diggi Palace, and the police got jittery, fearing a stampede. They put up barricades, turning away the crowds begging to get in. It was a new record, even for the Jaipur litfest.
But by Monday, Rushdie was back in the headlines. Was there some “stirring of the pot”, needless “self-centredness” on Rushdie’s part in fuelling the drama with his repeated tweets and long-distance bravado? Opinion at the litfest was sharply divided. But on one thing they agreed: by his stubborn refusal to be silenced, he forced a public debate on an issue that’s rarely discussed and certainly has never got this kind of attention—freedom of speech and the state’s abject failure to protect it. It could well be the best thing that happened to the litfest, forcing its head out of the sands.
The Centre and the state government of Rajasthan sold India to fundamentalist mullahs (Sometimes, Silence is Too Loud, Feb 6).
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
This is a well planned tactics of congress party to wooing Muslim voters of U.P.Rahul Gandhi` prime minister ship depend on how congress do well in U.P.First they provoked fundamental Muslim group to called fatwa not to gave visa to Rushdie then they send fake wire to Rushdie not to come,than they provoked local Muslim of Jaipur protest against video conference.All congress tactics were successful..How much Muslim votes they get that will we know after counting.Organizers of Jaipur festival are. timid and cowardly they easily surrendered before so called threat of fundamentalist Muslims and made laughable to themselves.before whole world
.Real question is how much so called secular parties of India bow before Muslim voters how much bend themselves with their every whim?In last day of his life Gandhi confessed to Nirmal Kumar Bose that my greatest mistake was I wooed too much to Muslim. Can Congress and other secular parties of India wooing too much to Muslim want to create another Pakistan in India?
This Salman Rushdie affair played out in advantage of congress. By getting a wide criticism by media, congress actually got more than it probably planned for! Now it can go and tell them; look we took so much of heat for you: one particular “minority”. Unfortunately, media was caught between a rock and a hard place. It was a master political stoke by congress.
'Do we deserve our freedoms?-Meghnad Desai
Well may we extol the virtues of ahimsa but we have just surrendered to threats of violent rioting in Jaipur. A Republic sixty-two years old is even now unsure of the freedoms it has bestowed upon its citizens and confused as to its identity.--But some identities especially religious ones are being privileged.But then who is to decide which sensitivities are worthy of more respect and which less.
The worst effect of privileging religious or caste groups is that if I am born in one of those groups but wish to reject that identity, I cannot seek protection from the state. But for an apostate Muslim as for a Muslim divorcee,it is the religious gatekeepers who police if they can enjoy their fundamental rights...
He( Gandhi) was finally killed by a fellow Hindu, who was hanged for his crime. If Salman Rushdie had come to Jaipur and been shot by one of the many Muslim gangs, would his killer have been tried, if caught, and hanged if convicted? "
Congress is in no mood to annoy its Vote Bank whom it is assiduously pandering in view of UP Elections .Rahul has taken upon himself to bring back UP to Congress fold .Hence the clean chits at AzamGarh ,Malegaon I,Samjohta Blasts , Batla House and numerous other Terror carnages .
One thing everybody is missing out is the "head in the sand" liberal misunderstanding of how things work in India. A big vote bank is more important than a small vote bank. How many votes do the liberals have? It does not even have to be vote banks. A good paymaster is more important than an abstract speaker or writer. How much did the liberals pay to any political party? Did they even consider making a donation for police protection? Any entrepenuer, corporation, influence peddler or fixer will tell you how to get good will from the powers that matter. However, I undertstand that ranting in speech and writing is how liberals get their kicks. Actually everybody is happy to shout at all others, and then settle down to things as going on as before. India is a very stable place from this point of view.
Film producers know how to con the censors. They put in a lot of over-the-line shots and an equal amount of below-the-line ranchiness in their item numbers. The censors have sonmething to cut, and then they leave the rest of the shots for the masses to imagine and enjoy. Our freedom-in-theory lovers should imbibe some common sense from them.
India on sale to fundamentalist mullas by Rajastan and Central Govts.
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