Condemning the government for enforcing “a disgrace” by not allowing Salman Rushdie to attend or address the Jaipur Literature Festival, writer Vikram Seth said on Thursday that “God and his prophets do not need bullies to defend themselves.”

Speaking at the Kolkata Literary Meet, being organised along with the 36{+t}{+h}Kolkata International Book Fair, he said the gathering was occurring only two days after another “ended with a disgraceful exhibition of the suppression of word, suppression of the mind and suppression of the heart.”

“One of the most prominent and admired authors of our time was not permitted to appear and address an audience in person, and then in the strangest way he was not even permitted to appear on a screen to address them,” Mr. Seth said. It was very clear why it was done.

The whole affair was started because of “power, politics and the misuse of religion” and the government “buckled under and enforced a disgrace,” he said.

“We are a constitutional nation, not a religious dictatorship,” Mr. Seth said. Unless a person threatened violence, “you have no right to gag or bully” anyone.

‘Liberty of faith'

Mr. Seth said the “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship” were mentioned in the Preamble of the Constitution. “Where is the liberty today? Yes, the liberty of faith and worship is alive and kicking, but what about the liberty of thought of expression, of belief. Don't they equally make who we are, what constitutes us as a nation,” he asked.

Mr. Seth spoke at length about his book The Rivered Earth in an interaction with writer Ruchir Joshi, who is one of the four authors who were asked to leave the Jaipur Literature Festival after they read excerpts from Rushdie's banned book Satanic Verses.

At the close of the session, Mr. Seth commended Mr. Joshi for his act.