Thursday 27 October 2016
02 November 2012 Books Tata Literature Live! festival

Why Has Naipaul Been Honoured?

The noted playwright takes Landmark and Literature Alive to task: 'Do they mean to valorise Naipaul's stand that Indian Muslims are raiders and marauders? Are they supporting his continued insistence on Muslim buildings in India being monuments to

On Friday afternoon at the Tata Literature Live! festival in Mumbai, playwright Girish Karnad surprised audiences with an unexpected and spirited critique of Nobel laureate Vidia Naipaul. Naipaul was awarded the Landmark and Literature Alive's Lifetime Achievement Award on October 31. Karnad was originally supposed to talk about “his life in theatre” in his session, but instead launched into a scathing critique of Naipaul and the conferral of the award to him

This is the text of the statement mailed by Mr Karnad: [the bits in italics were later added from the Times of India and the available video, as actual delivered remarks]

At the Mumbai Literature Festival this year, Landmark and Literature Alive have jointly given the Lifetime’s Achievement Award to Sir Vidia Naipaul. The award ceremony held on the 31st of October at the National Centre of the Performing Arts coyly failed to mention that Naipaul was not an Indian and has never claimed to be one. But at no point was the question raised, and the words Shashi Deshpande, the novelist, had used to describe the Neemrana Festival conducted by the ICCR in 2002 perfectly fitted the present event: ‘it was a celebration of a Nobel Laureate …whom India, hopefully, even sycophantically, considered an Indian.’

Apart from his novels, only two of which take place in India and are abysmal,  Naipaul has written three books on India and the books are brilliantly written—he is certainly among the great  English writers of our generation. They have been hailed as a continued exploration of India's journey into modernity, but what strikes one from the very first book—A Wounded Civilization—is their rabid antipathy to the Indian Muslim. The 'wound' in the title is the one inflicted on India by Babar's invasion. Since then, Naipaul has never missed a chance to weigh in against the 'invaders', accusing them of having savaged India for five centuries, of having brought, among other dreadful things, poverty into it and destroyed the glorious ancient Hindu culture .

A point that strikes one immediately about these books is that there is not a single word in any of them on Indian music. Given that music defines our daily existence... you find it in the streets, in the restaurants and so on... you would expect an exploration of India to comment on that. Now Mr Naipaul has written three books on India, three very big books... and not one of them contains any reference to music. He has gone through the whole of India without responding to Indian music.

Now I think this only means that he is tone-deaf. That's my reading of the situation but then there's no reason why he shouldn't be tone-deaf. It is a constitutional right we all have. But what happens is that if you don't understand music, if you don't respond to music, then you can't respond to Indian history because the real development of Indian culture has been through music.

This is one problem with Mr Naipaul's analysis of Indian culture. He has no music and therefore no conception of what the Muslims contributed to our history. His concept of what the Muslims did in Indian history clearly shows that he has no idea of what at least the music did. Now, not having music -- not having an ear for music deprives him of another chapter in his book really, if I might put it that way.

This explains his insensitivity  to the intricate  interweaving of  Hindu and Muslim creativities, through the Bhakti and Sufi movements, that gave us this extraordinary  heritage, alive in the heart of every Indian  home.

What Naipaul's virulence against Indian Islam conceals is that he has borrowed his model of the history of Indian culture from the British musicologists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, like William Jones. These scholars were acquainted with many other ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptian, the Greek and the Roman. But they were mystified by the fact that while the musical traditions of these civilizations were entirely lost, the Indian musical tradition was alive and thriving.

They decided that this once pure-and-glorious music must have been, at some point during the course of its long history, corrupted and mauled—and they found the villain in the invading Muslim. So, according to them, once upon a time  there was a pristine Indian musical culture, which the  Muslims had disfigured. They therefore ignored the music that was being performed around them and went in search of the true Hindu music.

The foreigners come, they look at Indian culture, they see pristine Hindu culture, they see that it's corrupted and it's corrupted by Muslims. So you see, anyone who has read Naipaul's book will immediately recognise this matrix, which actually he claims that he arrived at through himself but it is already there in any Indological study long before.

In his analysis of Indian culture Naipaul simply borrows this line of argument and reemploys it—as his original perception. And not for the first time.

Naipaul accuses R.K. Narayan of being indifferent to the destruction and death symbolized by the ruins of Vijayanagar, which to him was a bastion of Hindu culture destroyed by the marauding Muslims. But again he gets this interpretation of the history of Vijayanagar  readymade from a book by Robert Sewell called  A Forgotten Empire, published in 1900.

Naipaul, as always in awe  of his colonial sources, simply accepts this picture as the unadorned truth and recycles it wholesale as his own. That historians and archaeologists working on the site during the last century have proved the situation to be much more complex and have shown that religion had little role to play in the conflict is irrelevant to him.

Now again, what he says is predictable, which is that the Muslims destroyed Indian architecture, that everything went to pot. They were the raiders, they were the destroyers, and you have to look at any building to see what happened during the Muslim regime. And here is what he said about the Taj when people argued with him: "The Taj is so wasteful, so decadent and in the end so cruel that I found it painful to be there for very long. This is an extravagance that speaks about the blood of the people

None of us, if we were at the Taj, would think of the extravagance that speaks about the blood of the people! That's why you get a Nobel Prize, you know.

He brushes off historian Romila Thapar's argument that the Mughal era saw a rich efflorescence of the mixture of Hindu and Muslim styles, by attributing her judgment to her Marxist bias  and says, 'The correct truth is the way the invaders look at their actions, They were conquering. They were subjugating.'  

To Naipaul, the Indian Muslim remains an invader for ever, forever condemned to be condemned, because some of them had invaders as their ancestors. It is a usage which would yield some strange results if applied to the USA.

As for Naipaul's journalistic exploration of modern India,  mainly in the form of a series of interviews conducted  with Indians right across the board, one must confess they are supremely well written and that he is a master in drawing sharp and precise visuals of the people he talks to and of the places he visits.

What begins to bother one after a while however, is that he  invariably seems to meet brilliant interviewees whose answers to his questions are expressed with a wit and elegance that match his own mastery of the language. Even half-literate interviewees suffer from no diffidence in their expression.

How reliable are the conversations he records?

In a well-known essay Naipaul describes his visit to the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, where he stayed with his friend, Ashoke Chatterjee, the Director of the Institute.

In a recent email to me, Mr Chatterjee said, that Naipaul's essay was "a scenario that could have been, but was not what he actually saw. Fragments of reality, selected and put together, into a collage of pure fantasy."

Chatterjee's friendship with Naipaul came to an abrupt end when Chatterjee told Naipaul that his book, A Wounded Civilization, should be classified as fiction.

In a recent book, Naipaul takes up for examination the autobiography of Munshi Rahman Khan, who emigrated to Suriname at the end of the nineteenth  century, and contrasts it with Gandhi's.  

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, the historian, has reviewed the essay in the London Review of Books and it doesn't take him much effort to establish that Naipaul could only have read a third-hand, truncated translation of the text: "It is as if a reader in Gorakhpur was reading Naipaul in Maithili after the text had passed through a Japanese translation."

That doesn't prevent Naipaul from commenting even on the style and linguistic usage of Rahman Khan.  

The question surely is by giving him the Lifetime Achievement Award, what statement is being made by the award-givers?

As a journalist what he writes about India is his business. No one can question his right to be ignorant or to prevaricate.

But the Nobel Prize has given him a sudden authority and his use of it needs to be looked at.

One of the first things Naipaul did on receiving the Nobel Prize was to visit the office of the BJP in Delhi. He who had earlier declared that he was not political, "that to have a political view is to be programmed", now declared that he was happy to be politically "appropriated".

It was then that he made his most infamous remark: "Ayodhya", he said, "is a sort of passion. Any passion is creative. Passion leads to creativity."

Salman Rushdie's response was that Naipaul was behaving like "a fellow-traveller of Fascism and [that he] disgraces the Noble Prize."

In the wake of Ayodhya close to 1500 Muslims were slaughtered in the streets of Bombay alone. I was attending a Film Festival in New Delhi when the riots broke out  and received anguished  calls from my friends in Bombay to say Muslims were being pulled out of their homes or stopped in the streets to be killed.

I rang my Muslim editor to say he and his family could use my flat, in a predominantly Parsi building, until the situation became safe.

The great Marathi actress, Fayyaz, whom I finally located after a week in a corner in Pune where she had fled in distress from Mumbai, described how Shiv Sainiks had thrown fire bombs into Muslim slums and how, when the inmates of the houses rushed out in terror, they were shot down by the police as trouble-makers.

Seven years later, in cold blood, Naipaul was glamorising  these  events as "passion", as "a creative act".

It is significant that this part of Naipaul's sociologising was not mentioned in the citation of the Award, or by Farrukh Dhondy, who while  interviewing him, mentioned the book, Among the Believers and then quickly moved to a long-winded account of how he had helped Sir Vidia adopt a cat which thirteen years later was put to sleep lying on his lap—giving  Naipaul another chance to burst into sentimental tears.

Presumably Dhondy was trying to prove how 'human' Naipaul was.

But Landmark and Literature Alive who have announced this Award have a responsibility to explain to us where exactly they stand with regard to these remarks by Naipaul.

Naipaul is a foreigner and can make pronouncements as he wishes. But do they mean to valorise Naipaul's stand that Indian Muslims are raiders and marauders? Are they supporting his continued insistence on  Muslim buildings in India being  monuments to rape and loot? Or are they by their silence suggesting  that these views do not matter?  

The Award givers have much to answer for.

Nov 3, 2012: Edited to add direct quotations (in italics) from the Times of India and the video to the text sent by Mr Karnad

On the same subject, from our 2004 archives:

Some reactions on Twitter:

18 Nov 2012, 06:16:02 AM | Buzz

And then Prof C.M. Naim: Limits of Naipaul’s antipathies:

For Naipaul and his admirers, Ayodhya begins and ends with two dates: 1526 and 1992. Nothing happened in between. Nothing else matters. A psychic wound was made in 1526; it miraculously healed — well, not miraculously; a lot of nasty bits played some role — in 1992. But for the local people, who, according to Naipaul, should be most deeply wounded, a few other dates did matter. For example 1855, when a Muslim nawab sent a Hindu general with a small army and many cannons to stop a fanatic Muslim from laying claim to parts of Hanumangadhi in Ayodhya. The general was successful, and properly rewarded. Or 1949, when Ram Lalla made his miraculous appearance in the sanctum of the “disputed structure”. Naipaul wouldn’t know, and antipathetically wouldn’t care if he did, that there was then in Ayodhya someone named Swami Akshay Brahmachari who undertook a fast in order to heal the wound that his beloved Ayodhya had received. That the Brahmachari was deceived by the politicians in power is also something Naipaul wouldn’t care to know, nor the little detail that, for a couple of decades after the “miracle”, the Muslim appellant and the Hindu defendant used to travel from Faizabad to the high court in Lucknow and back in a shared taxi, and retained their friendly ties as long as they lived...


17 Nov 2012, 06:02:09 AM | Buzz

The Indian Express has two articles on the Naipaul-Karnad brouhaha. First Vamsee Juluri on Karnad’s civilising mission:

...the charge that Karnad has led (and I say led, because it is obviously not without followers and fans), and how he has done it, have done less to condemn the presumptions in Naipaul’s writings than to perpetuate some more recent Orientalist myths that have been in global circulation since 9/11 and the American War on Terror.

These are not the usual myths and fears of the right, those that can be easily seen as Islamophobic. These are myths that come from the left, supposedly as a response to Islamophobia, and have a peculiar way of reducing the complexity of identities and conflicts in India to an equally simplistic good guys and bad guys framework.

Post 9/11, Western South Asian experts (including occasional South Asians themselves), sought to argue that the notion of Islamic terrorism was not only highly exaggerated, but perhaps even paled before the dangers of Hindu terror, so fresh in their minds after Ayodhya and Gujarat. Pop culture too seemed to reflect the liberal, anti-Islamophobic Western worldview of South Asia...

12 Nov 2012, 08:45:33 PM | Buzz

Aakar Patel in the First Post: Islam and prejudice: Why Girish Karnad is wrong about Naipaul;

I don’t think Naipaul is prejudiced against Muslims. Prejudice indicates judging without information, a charge that must be laid against Naipaul carefully. He has some views about Islam’s damage to native cultures, but his work there is based on field reportage, not regurgitation.

In any case, much of what he has articulated is visible and indisputable unless one is blind to what is around. This blindness of Indians, their inability to observe and their retreat from the physical world is known to us only through Naipaul’s penetration. The reason he deserves the Nobel Prize is this original work.

The fact is his theories have stood the test. Sensitive, de-racinated Indians will recognise the world around them through Naipaul’s lens.

10 Nov 2012, 03:44:14 PM | Buzz

Geeta Hariharan in the Hindu: A reward for Mr. Naipaul

Girish Karnad was absolutely right to speak up at the venue where Naipaul was honoured. Karnad has reminded us that for writers, all texts, literary debates and political questions form a continuum. As for propriety, why is it that great men like Naipaul are allowed departures from propriety, but not the great and not-so-great writers at home?

Karnad added that Indian writers, especially those writing in English, have not challenged Naipaul’s views. Like their counterparts in other spheres of middle class Indian life, many writers are wary of making a “political” statement, or taking on the great — especially the great in London or New York — in public. But to set the record straight: I am aware of at least three Indian writers in English who have responded to Naipaul’s statements in public. In a festival session at Neemrana in 2002, the Great Man threw darts at two of his fears: women and Muslims. He said women writers are banal; he finds them boring. In response, Shashi Deshpande said she found Naipaul’s preoccupation with the loss of an imaginary India boring.

Naipaul cut off Nayantara Sahgal as she spoke of post-colonialism, again complaining of banality. Ruchir Joshi made a sharp, timely intervention. Naipaul was not just being rude; he felt Sahgal had not gone back far enough in identifying the colonisers of India. “When did colonialism begin?” he asked, implying that it began with “the Muslims.” This is exactly what Girish Karnad refers to when he speaks of the questionable assumption of a pristine Hindu past sullied by Muslim invaders.

Writers are not necessarily historians; but they are not precocious children with a knack either. Nor are they hermits. Any intelligent reader knows that the written work is informed by the writer’s take on history, politics, socio-economic contexts.

Two important questions emerge when we debate an Indian honour conferred on Naipaul. One is on the context in which Naipaul’s work is located. The other is about the books and writers we choose to reward and what these choices say about us.


09 Nov 2012, 03:37:56 PM | Buzz

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express: Master of Antipathies

Naipaul was the first writer to understand that behind the emerging politics in India in the eighties, there were profound psychological shifts. Did his ability to register this have something to do with the very quality that made critics dismiss his earlier work as prejudice? Only someone who had dared to look into the self-abasement of a civilisation could also see its violent and complex stirrings. He was morally blind in his political judgements. He failed to recognise that Hindu nationalism was an insidious form of collective narcissism that would provoke violence. But Naipaul is hated because he said something many thought but would dare not say: that large numbers of people, including many politically committed secularists, saw elements of catharsis in Hindu nationalism. The Indian secular narrative had become too wedded to a historical narrative according to which it could not be the case that Hindus and Muslims had deep conflict, temples could not ever really have been destroyed for religious reasons. Naipaul’s claim was that this was a repressive narrative that would generate its own pathologies. It made Enlightenment values precariously hostage to getting history right; as if to say that if indeed there had been conflict in the past, the current conflict would be justified. His claim was that Enlightenment values could not rest on historical myth-making. You should be allowed to say that temples were indeed destroyed. But acknowledging this and moving on was a far healthier psychological state than a discourse where that thought could only be repressed and produce its pathologies in turn. Converting the religious-secular divide into a debate over history was to miss the point. The terrain of the conflict was entirely psychological. The proper critique of Naipaul is not that he got history wrong. Having interestingly plumbed the depths of the psychology that animates movements like Hindu nationalism, he became so enamoured of what he found, that he become blind to its effects.

08 Nov 2012, 08:54:52 PM | Buzz

Hartosh Singh Bal in Open: Old Aunt Girish

As a Sikh, despite my tone-deafness, I am heir to the extraordinary heritage Karnad makes so much of. The music that Karnad speaks of is played daily in the vast majority of Sikh households, yet a great number of Sikhs continue to harbour extreme views of Muslims. The problem with the syncretic vision that Karnad sets so much store by is that it can coexist with the most extreme form of bigotry. Naipaul suggests some answers to this dilemma when he points to the wounds of history. Again, I do not entirely agree with him, but he is asking the right questions. Karnad’s response to this question seems to be to bury his head in sand and listen to Raga Malhar (for those with a factual bent of mind, it is now possible to do so, thanks to headphones).

With Naipaul, what counts for me is not the answers he offers, but the observations he makes, the questions he poses. Questions that concern us in modern India, such as what lies behind the resentment that fuels the Hindu Right, questions that have no answers in the limited framework Karnad offers.

08 Nov 2012, 01:47:05 AM | Buzz

Mushirul Hasan in the Hindu: Sustaining the myth of hostility:

Girish Karnad is right. Naipaul is as ill-informed about India as Huntington was about the world outside the western hemisphere. One more related point. He talks of a fractured past solely in terms of Muslim invasions and conveniently forgets the grinding down of the Buddhist-Jain culture during the period of Brahmanical revival. He fumes and frets even though a fringe element alone celebrates the vandalism of the early Islamists who were driven more by the desire to establish the might of an evangelical Islam than to deface Hindu places of worship. With anger, remorse, and bitterness becoming a substitute for serious study and analysis, Naipaul’s plan for India’s salvation collapses like a pack of cards...

In the recent debate over Karnad’s remarks, several analysts have considered Naipaul’s interpretation of Islam as valid. I take issue with them. I believe writers like him widen the existing chasm between the Muslim communities and the followers of other religions. We need writers, poets and publicists who create mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue rather than create distrust and promote intolerance.

Peter Geyl reminded us that the historian should be interested in his subject for its own sake, he should try to get in touch with things as they were, the people and the vicissitudes of their fortunes should mean something to him in themselves. “Let Colour Fill the Flowers, Let Breeze of Early Spring Blow,” wrote the Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

If ever Naipaul wants to write a travelogue on Muslim countries, the sense of Islam as something more than words in texts, as something living in individual Muslims, must emerge from his pen.

05 Nov 2012, 08:19:48 AM | Buzz

Farrukh Dhondy in the Times of India: 'Girish’s is a noble but unnecessary cause. Naipaul doesn’t hate Muslims'

The blindness to architectural splendour was based on Girish's argument that Sir Vidia had once said that the Taj Mahal conjured for him the toil, sweat and blood that had gone into this vain construction, a monument to death and the memory of a tyrant. I suppose not liking the Taj Mahal could cause one to fall at the first hurdle in the Karnad Architectural Stakes, but then one ought to also consider Sir Vidia's opinion, to which I can testify, that Humayun's tomb is a great piece of work...

Through this shower of unguided missiles, what came through devastatingly was that Girish was protecting all Muslims from V S Naipaul's derision and hatred.

This is a noble but unnecessary cause. I happen to know through years of friendship that Sir Vidia doesn't hate Muslims. In fact Lady Naipaul and her family are Muslims, Sir Vidia's adopted son and daughter and two grandchildren are Muslims and he appears to love the lot.

The argument of his books, as with so much of his work, is a corrective to the Indian nationalist view of history which was generated in the country's fight for independence from British colonial rule and in the interests of unity made scant mention of the process, cruelty, negligence, slaughter and destructive wars of the earlier raids and conquests of Muslim and later Mughal warlords and kings.

Girish went on to quote William Dalrymple who had quoted a remark that Naipaul is supposed to have made to a gathering at the 'BJP's offices'. The quote was wrong and mischievous. Neither William Dalrymple nor Girish was present at this meeting between Naipaul and the 'BJP's Cultural Wing' (fancy that!). I was.

Naipaul steadfastly refused to speak about the politics or morality of the Babri masjid episode. The only thing he did say was that the construction of a mosque by the first Moghul emperor at Ayodhya was "an act of hubris".

I said I may have got the wrong end of the stick, but at the end of Girish's diatribe the stick turned out to have only one end. He refused to let me refute his arguments or challenge his quotes. The case for the prosecution rested; the defence was arrested. I left the hall and went to see Girish's entertaining play.

04 Nov 2012, 08:06:41 AM | Buzz

Joeanna Rebello Fernandes in the Times of India: It was the right place and occasion: Girish Karnad:

"This is where they made the announcement and where the award was given to him before an audience, so it was the right place and occasion to tell them I didn't agree with it. It wouldn't have made sense for me to go to say, Bandra, and make my opinions known," Karnad says.

"And I did expect him to be defended. (Farrukh) Dhondy has been defending him for years. But this is not a new argument. ( William) Dalrymple has been attacking Naipaul's views since 2005. What I find disgraceful is that the criticism came from Dalrymple (a foreigner) and not an Indian writer. Which is why I stepped up."

..."I couldn't improvise my accusations on the spur of the moment," he says. "At the time of accepting the invitation to the festival two months ago, there had been no talk of Naipaul being honoured. When I learnt of it later, I did my homework. I have, of course, read his books, so the accusations were not without basis." Karnad maintains that the choice of candidate for the award smacked of sycophancy. "What was the basis of their choice?" he questions, "Is this an international award when the alternatives could have been Derek Walcott or Orhan Pamuk, who has a following here? Or was it an Indian award where the candidates for it then could have been M T Vasudevan Nair or Paul Zacharia. Or was the festival only honouring Nobel laureates? What are the terms of your nomination?" ...

03 Nov 2012, 11:15:28 PM | Buzz

PTI reports: Karnad Rules Out Any Apology to Naipaul

"I completely stand by my statement. I haven't made any mistake. Why should I apologise? You apologise when you say something you didn't mean to. I intended to say it, rather I came prepared for it ," Karnad said...

....festival director Anil Dharker said, "We were all taken aback by Girish Karnad's attack on V S Naipaul. After all, we had invited him (Karnad) to speak about his journey in theatre, and Naipaul had nothing to do with that! Even the packed audience had come to listen to Karnad's talk about theatre.

"I am all for free speech but free speech presupposes a dialogue, not a diatribe. Karnad's two objections to Naipaul getting the award are demonstrably false," Dharker said in a statement.

"Naipaul is of Indian origin, so we are not rewarding a foreigner. As for Naipaul being anti-Muslim, his wife Nadira is Muslim and her two children are being bought up as Muslim. Naipaul writes about how Muslim rulers and invaders of the past destroyed temples, monuments and so on. That's a historical fact, and who can argue against that? That does not make Naipaul anti-Muslim.

"I also resent the implication that we, as organisers, are somehow not secular. I am a Trustee of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) led by Teesta Setalvad, and we have been fighting over 200 cases in court against (Narendra) Modi and his government over the 2002 Gujarat violence," Dharker added.

03 Nov 2012, 06:57:06 PM | Buzz

Supriya Nair in a separate piece in the Mint: Girish Karnad lashes out at VS Naipaul: 

Novelist Farrukh Dhondy, who accompanied Naipaul to the BJP cultural wing meeting from where his remarks on Ayodhya were reported, says they were “a complete misquotation. He had no views on the Babri Masjid, and said only one thing about it then, that building it was an act of hubris”.
Dhondy, a friend and frequent interviewer of Naipaul, was in conversation with him on the night of his award, but did not have a chance to respond to Karnad in public. “I want to put to bed the notion that Vidia is against Muslims,” Dhondy said. “Islam, as he’s said before, is not his business. He has explored, among others, the phenomenon of Islamic conversions, by a legitimate form of inquiry. He’s never written anything about it in his novels.”
“Vidia has strange opinions, but he doesn’t deserve the sort of character assassination he’s received. For a distinguished playwright to link his Nobel Prize to the aftermath of 9/11 is stupid.”
03 Nov 2012, 06:49:46 PM | Buzz

Supriya Nair in the Mint has more excerpts from Karnad's speech, Girish Karnad takes on V.S. Naipaul, that concludes with:

If the givers of this award are deliberately keeping silent about their opinion of this outsider’s criminalization of a whole section of the Indian population as rapists and murders, then let me say the silence is more than irresponsible. It is shocking.

Of the award itself, one can only call it shameful.
03 Nov 2012, 06:42:40 PM | Buzz

Deepanjana Pal in the DNA: VS Naipaul is tone deaf: Girish Karnad

“My question is to organisers who keep giving him lifetime awards as though what he has to say about a large section of the Indian population, about a whole rich period of Indian history which was our glory, doesn’t matter.”

When festival director Anil Dharker told Karnad it wasn’t polite of him to use the platform the festival had provided him like this, Karnad replied, “I don’t have to be polite. I’m following in the footsteps of Naipaul.”

03 Nov 2012, 04:34:43 AM | Buzz

Vidya Prabhu adds in the Indian Express: Karnad slams Naipaul, questions his Mumbai fest award:

Foreign writers such as William Dalrymple had spoken about these incidents connected to Naipaul but not Indian writers, Karnad added.

“Naipaul is a foreigner and he is entitled to his opinion. But why give an award to a man who calls Indian Muslims ‘raiders’ and ‘marauders’? I have Muslim friends and I feel strongly about this,” he said.

Not everyone in the gathering, however, was willing to buy Karnad’s arguments. When the session was thrown open to the audience, Naipaul’s friend, writer Farrokh Dhondy, rose to ask a question. But Karnad refused to entertain any queries from him. “This is like a court where the prosecution has been presenting its case without giving any opportunity to the defence,” Dhondy remarked in anger.

Festival director Anil Dharker was disappointed by the way the session had turned out. “We gave you the chance to speak about your life in theatre, but you never spoke about it. Instead, you chose to go on about a writer who has won the Nobel Prize for literature,” Dharker said, addressing Karnad from the audience. “When we gave him the award, it was because of his entire body of work and not any one particular book. To have taken this up here was not polite.”

But Karnad was unapologetic. “But I am only following Naipaul. Besides, I came here to conduct a master class and I would have anyway spoken about this,” he retorted.

Soon after, the session was brought to an abrupt end. Speaking about the incident later, Dhondy said Naipaul never made the remarks about Ayodhya Karnad had attributed to him. “In fact, his wife, Nadira, is a Muslim and so is his adopted son. By not letting me quiz him, Karnad imposed censorship, something that he himself vehemently opposes,” Dhondy said.

02 Nov 2012, 11:53:44 PM | Buzz

Way back in 1965, Nissim Ezekiel responded to Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness with an essay, Naipaul's India and Mine, which is worth reading even today and is available here

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