SALMAN RUSHDIE IN NEW DELHI RECEIVED A THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE TODAY. CRITICISED ISLAMIST TERRORISTS, MINCED NO WORDS.
SALMAN RUSHDIE RECEIVED HERO’S APPLAUSE
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
New Delhi and Jaipur were Poles apart in their treatment of Sir Salman Rushdie, the Indian born author of Satanic Verses that turned the Mullas and Ayatullahs into hangmen baying for his blood. A few months ago the World Writers Conference at Jaipur had to close its doors for the international author on the Congress government’s diktat meant to please the Muslim vote-bank, the India Today Concave held in the national capital rolled out a red carpet welcome. The well attended conclave gave a thunderous applause to the humorous one liners of the celebrated juggler of words and made him feel perfectly at home in the country where he belonged. He loved every moment of his interaction with the crème de la crème of the Indian society.
BOWLED BATTED AND FIELDED
Aroon Purie, Chief Editor of the India Today Group set the ball rolling in his opening introduction underlining the Freedom of Expression as the theme. “I Am What I am; That is It” and that calls for no criticism from any quarter. At the same time, in a free, democratic civilised society every individual has the right to appreciate or criticise any IDEA, be it divine or human. An Idea should be countered with an Idea and there is no place for Violence in an exchange of Ideas.
A young writer of Pakistan origin and son of the slain Governor of Pakistan-Punjab, Taseer was at hand to introduce the keynote speaker of the evening and contribute to a scathing criticism of Pakistan for what it is promoting in the name of Islam, though wrongly.
As Sir Salman Rushdie stood behind the mike at the lectern, there was a hushed silence in expectation of bomb blasts to demolish well entrenched ideas. The Keynote speaker went after the celebrated cricketer turned politician of Pakistan, Imran Khan and faulted him for developing cold feet and beating a hasty retreat instead of facing the heat of the writer of Satanic Verses. Salman bet that Imran had not read the book at all and knew nothing about what was inside He criticised Imran for cosying up with the Pakistan Army to save his skin and pampering the Islamic Mullas for letting him garner votes of the bearded voters after all that he had done as a playboy in England. Salman said that Imran might have been a fast bowler but chickened in front of Salman’s bouncers. The Keynote Speaker also criticised the Pakistan society and its rulers for their double faced policies.
Sir Salman Rushdie tore apart Mullas for promoting Islamist terrorism and bringing a bad name to the peace-loving Muslims of the world. They wrongly interpreted Satanic Verses written in 1988 and erroneously blamed the book and the writer for bringing a bad name to Islam and added that what really hurt Islam was sheltering Osama bin-Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan with the consent of both army and civil rulers. The Speaker further castigated Pakistan for exporting Terror and killing innocent citizens of India in Mumbai blasts and train explosions.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Sir Salman Rushdie went lock stock and barrel in defence of Freedom of Expression. This is what Democracy is all about. This freedom is not an imported idea from the West or the Greek philosophers. It is given in the NATYA SHASTRA where Indra himself pronounces the unwritten law that whatever is said or represented within four corners of the stage will have divine immunity, not to be challenged by man-made laws. This indeed is the cornerstone of edifice of Expression and is sacrosanct even for the rulers. This is separation of the Art and its expression in any form like a play or a novel or a painting or sculpture or a part thereof.
Later during the lively question-answer session with members of the distinguished audience, Sir Salman Rushdie gave an example of his family living in Balli Maran in old Delhi, observing all Islamic obligations and yet encouraging the youth to question the Islamic beliefs without causing any annoyance whatsoever. However, he regretted that the liberalism of the generation of Ghalib, Zauk etc is missing from the thinking process of the new generation of Muslims and even Hindus. It was mentioned by the MC that the new generation of liberals like Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav and some others had abstained from the Conclave because of the presence of Sir Salman Rushdie.
Dwelling on freedom of Thought, the Keynote Speaker said that it would be perfectly alright if someone chose not to read his book, Satanic Verses, but an objector to that book should take the stage and counter it with his ideas. The dogmatic Mullas promote violence because they are unable to defend their Faith against the onslaught of new Ideas. Thus it is not the Faith or a religion that Mullas or Ayatollahs are defending but it is the inherent violence in their process of thinking that they are rooting for.
The Speaker also went for the Hindu extremists with a pair of tongs for having hounded out an artist of the stature of MF Hussain. However, the cold stare that he got made him refrain from dwelling on it any further. Hussain had painted goddesses of the Hindu Dharma in the nude and not touched Muslim ladies even with a barge pole. Anyway, the point at issue was Liberty that should not become a License. A member of the audience had emphasised the point that what is freedom for an individual may hurt another individual and thus the dividing line should be drawn and respected.
Ladies among the audience were quite active in asking for the mike and putting questions. I must hasten to add that most of the questions were put to the distinguished speaker not to catch him on the wrong foot but to adduce more information relevant to the theme. One of the ladies wished to know how religious the keynote Speaker was. Sir Salman did not blush to say that although he came from a Muslim background but he did not observe the prescribed rituals. He was not at all religious. He did not mind fielding personal questions either. One gentleman asked why he had a tall girlfriend now who hanged on his hand. He answered that girls were attracted to him because he was so irresistible.
One may say that the session with Sir Salman Rushdie was informative, lively, free from inhibitions and above all full of humour that saved the non-political audience from boredom. Both the young and old alike wore a vibrant look throughout the proceedings. Notwithstanding apprehensions about likely breach of law and order, the lecture session was as peaceful as ever. Even Sir Salman Rushdie was pleasantly surprised that there were no protests and no demonstrations. Some pressmen even enquired of the potential protesters what the reason for prevailing peace was. They were told that now, after the assembly elections, no one was interested in holding protest-demonstrations.
An intellectual lecture catered to an intellectual audience achieved its aim Aroon Purie and his team deserve bouquets sans brickbats. Perfect Peace Prevailed.
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