June 15, 2021
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Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes

Ashok Malik in the Asian Age:

In April 1992, Mushirul Hasan, then pro-vice chancellor of Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia, gave an interview to Sunday magazine in which he called for lifting the ban on Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. “The banning of the book”, Mr Hasan said, “or any book for that matter, rarely helps. On the contrary, it lends the book greater notoriety”. The interview caused a storm. Students and teachers at Jamia protested. Mr Hasan was prevented from coming to work. When he attempted to do so after a prolonged period, he was beaten up. In reality, he had fallen victim to a Congress clique that wanted to “recapture” Jamia from academics allegedly affiliated to the CPI(M).

One of the Congress instigators was Mr Khurshid, then deputy minister for commerce. In The Book on Trial: Fundamentalism and Censorship in India, Girija Kumar writes: “(Khurshid) made the extraordinarily outrageous statement that the liberals like Prof Mushirul Hasan ‘should be willing to pay the price of a liberal’”. A CPI(M) statement of the time was categorical: “It is highly unfortunate that certain minority fundamentalist forces are being aided and abetted by certain Congress (I) leaders, including some ministers like Salman Khurshid”.

In his book, Kumar wonders why Sunday “interviewed a number of Muslim politicians and intellectuals on the subject of The Satanic Verses”. There was “much speculation about the reasons… to revive the dormant controversy”. In his report on the Jamia Milia incidents, Justice M.M. Ismail, who otherwise criticised Mr Hasan, too considered the Sunday article, Kumar writes, “as motivated, and ‘an attempt at deliberate adventure’”. Was the article calculated to provoke a reaction? Only the person who wrote it can clarify. It carried the by-line of Louise Fernandes.

Read the full article at the Asian Age: Khurshid & MaCaulay

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