(This write-up is about Salman
Rushdie, the ‘four’ and a knotted follow-up of JLF-2012.)
Salman Rushdie, Amitava Kumar,
Hari Kunzru, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi – these were the five names in
the eye of the ‘Salman Rushdie and Satanic Verses’ storm last year during the Jaipur
Now as the radical and
politically motivated elements are once again out on the street with their
demand of ‘who should attend and who should not’, the responsibility of
these five becomes, even if not participating, to come and participate, if not
as speaker, then even as a guest to give them the ‘missing’ fitting reply.
Salman Rushdie is in India
during JLF-2013 to promote the movie based on ‘Midnight's Children’. Jeet Thayil
is on the list of participants. So, the ‘two’ out of five are here. Three more are
needed. Could that be a possibility?
Just an afterthought!
The way these ‘five’ either
retracted or ran away after the threats from the Muslim clerics last year was
demeaning to the core-essence of literature – conscience.
A sentient conscience is the
foremost branding element of a creative person. Such a thinking soul
spontaneously reacts on excesses that not only hurt the freedom of creativity
but also endanger the larger atmosphere of freedom of expression. How to
express the protest is individual and varies but what matters is it must be
And that wasn’t done last year.
When it was politically motivated
Salman Rushdie bashing last year, Salman Rushdie had to attend
the event to defend his freedom of expression (that not only included
tweeting). There was no official denial. He had to be there. He did not have to
tweet his protest. He had to live it. He didn’t.
When the conscience of the
‘four’, who read passage from the ‘Satanic Verses’ protesting the ‘Salman
Rushdie row’, pulled them to do so, they had to walk the talk by refusing to
leave the event. It doesn’t matter if they left on their own or under pressure
of the event-organizers.
When the event organizers had
decided to invite Salman Rushdie promoting him as the ‘main draw’ of the
event, they had to stand by the ‘four’ persuading them not to leave (if they
didn’t pressurise them to leave).
And by doing that, they
compromised the identity of the sentient conscience that is so natural to any
The spectre of commercial
leverage has killed the ‘literary’ soul of the Jaipur Literature Festival.
It is more of a PR-led high-profile public event where chaos and mismanagement
at micro level prevails and it happens at the cost of handsome returns at the
The lure of big gains can pollute
anyone. A global brand recognition in just five years has made the event a hot
Now the priority of the
organizers, it seems, is to manage the machine and to multiply the returns at
any cost. Literature has been pushed to the periphery of the event where big
names gather before an overcrowded audience and an overzealous media.
It is foolhardy from them to
expect they would think anything of this sort of inviting Salman Rushdie and
the ‘four’ to legitimately protest the stupidity of the radical elements again.