This refers to the editorial “A national shame” (Jan. 23). It aptly summed up what millions of Indians, irrespective of religion, would have felt at the treatment meted out to Salman Rushdie, who was prevented from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival.
But perhaps it is wrong in saying that “the search for truth and adventure of new ideas” has suffered a grievous blow. Isn't the “invention of a plot” to kill Mr. Rushdie, which ultimately and successfully dissuaded Mr. Rushdie from participating in the festival, an “adventure of new idea”? It is unfortunate that no political party or leader in India can unconditionally assure people like Mr. Rushdie that they are welcome. The least that the Centre and the Rajasthan governments can do now is gracefully apologise to Mr. Rushdie.
Don't write it. Don't paint it. Don't create it. Don't express it. Don't live it. Continuously stifling an idea when it is about to present a new perspective on a prevailing age-old belief has become the norm for the government, to maintain its fragile pickets of volatile vote-banks. The role of the government in the Rushdie episode reminds me of Edmund Burke's famous quote: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” You and I, who are just letting some elements take control of our lives, are responsible for this.
What happened with Mr. Rushdie is reminiscent of what happened to M. F. Husain. People expressed their outrage at the great artist forced to take refuge in a foreign land due to the religious intolerance of certain sections only after he died. Another similar case is in the making. This is yet another blemish on the tolerant and composite culture of India.
The argument that censoring out Rushdie will begin the slow-motion disintegration of India's secular state (“Salman Rushdie & India's new theocracy,” Jan. 21) is not true. Even after facing riots, India's secular fabric has remained intact. The Rushdie issue is being blown out of proportion just because of the upcoming elections. But he will continue to face protests as there is a difference between raising a query and hurling an abuse. Mr. Rushdie is guilty of the latter. While no literature can be politically correct, it has to be socially acceptable.
Syed Abbas Haider,
Even the organiser of the Jaipur festival will find the media's endless coverage of Mr. Rushdie's non-participation very boring. The undue coverage has resulted in the denial of other information on the festival. Let Muslims understand that a hate write-up by a Rushdie cannot destroy Islam. Similarly, his non-participation in the Jaipur festival could not have destroyed its quality.
Rameeza A. Rasheed,
Mr. Rushdie may be one of the world's greatest novelists. But his controversial book The Satanic Verses has, without doubt, hurt the sentiments of a large section of people. We may call the ban on his book a hindrance to our fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. But can freedom of speech and expression be enjoyed at the cost of the emotions of a section? I was not against his visit to Jaipur but the ban on his controversial book is justified.
Umme Fardina Adil,
When, with sufficient distance in time, the history of independent India is written, the attempt by Nehru to take it by the scruff, screaming and kicking, into the modern world, and its return in a mere 50 years to its old ways, will find a a prime place of mention.
Substitute “another” as Prime Minister the first 15 years, and imagine for yourself what India would already look like today. One shudders at what it might have become by now, so it's not too difficult to accept that it will get increasingly shrill and strident, with trouble coming, more frequently and for more felt slights, with the state nowhere to be seen to defend anything or anyone.
India imported secular democracy and gingerly placed it upon a feudal, caste and religion-centric, poor, superstitious, mostly illiterate society. So why be surprised that it is not visible anywhere, really, except momentarily every quinquennial, only to vanish immediately thereafter? Real democracy is two generations away.