Salman Rushdie is a “poor” and “sub-standard writer,” who is considered “great because he lives on the banks of the Thames,” according to Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju.
Slamming the Jaipur Literature Festival's focus on the Indian-origin British writer, Justice Katju, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, criticised “so-called educated Indians” who “suffer from the colonial inferiority complex” and believe that writers living in India are inferior to those living abroad.
“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 issued on Wednesday. “I have read some of Rushdie's works and am of the opinion that he is a poor writer, and but for The Satanic Verses would have remained largely unknown. Even Midnight's Children is hardly great literature.”
Justice Katju felt that too much attention was given to Mr. Rushdie during the festival. “I am not in favour of religious obscurantism. But neither do I wish to elevate a sub-standard writer into a hero.”
He claimed that there was not enough serious discussion about indigenous literature at the festival, naming Kabir, Premchand, Sharat Chandra, Ghalib and Faiz as writers whose works could have been discussed. He also named European writers such as Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Victor Hugo and Maxim Gorky as those who should have been discussed.
Instead, “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,” said Justice Katju. “This is the low level to which the Jaipur Festival sank.”