According to me, in reference to Rushdie’s ban from the JLF, it is rather hard, even impossible to pinpoint who the troublemaker is. The Indian government, the certain Muslims who were ready to resolve to violence and thought of it as the right way to deal with the issue, and lastly Rushdie himself! I am sure that Rushdie, being a Muslim himself, was aware of how religiously protective and sensitive the Muslims were when he wrote his book. He may have just been making use of his right to free speech, but he should have restrained himself from stating things which some Muslims would clearly find derogatory, especially because it has to do with the revered Prophet. However, though he may have intentionally or unintentionally hurt some Muslims, the offended were equally wrong to have responded with threats and violence.
The book was a case of mind over matter. If they hadn’t minded it wouldn’t have mattered. Response to what Rushdie wrote – or indeed to anything which you may find offensive – shouldn’t have been in the form of a fatwa, book-burning, attacks on publishers and translators, is not the disruption of a literary festival or banning the speaker or author from public discussion. The response to words should be words and words in the form of argument, not abuse. Rushdie should have been allowed to come to India and take part in the fest, where those who were hurt could have debated with him, heard both the sides of the argument, and put an end to the ancient controversy.
Instead the government was threatened, riots broke out and many lives were put at risk. It also proved that the world’s largest democracy would succumb to intimidations for electoral reasons, setting the stage for further such terrorizations. And so, the Literature Fest, which hosted 250 other authors, was shrouded by the controversy surrounding a single writer, and a big outcry was raised that freedom of speech was imperilled by banning Rushdie. Initially, even I thought so. However, during the course of doing this project, I realised that all the fuss and arguments, which this issue was initiating was quite senseless, as nobody was even benefiting from it.In India itself, more than 47% of the children are malnourished.
On average, 49 farmers commit suicide every day. To my mind freedom for, not only Indians, but also every one worldwide is freedom from hunger, ignorance, unemployment, disease and all kinds of deprivation. When we are facing such great problems, spending time over the insult to some by a book seems imbecile, especially when no one gains anything from it. Therefore, I believe that we should use our freedom of speech and expression to address these problems, debate them, be open to different ideas instead of suppressing them, and finally, work towards overcoming the problems which actually matter.