For someone who has mined history and mythology to bring us some of modern literature’s finest works, Salman Rushdie will be keenly following the Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya tomorrow.
Speaking over the phone from New York, the 63-year-old writer, talking about his latest novel, Luka and the Fire of Life hoped that the judgment was a "sensible" one.
"The past is the past. It shouldn't burden and cripple the present," he said about the 60-year-old dispute that reached a flashpoint in 1992 three years before he depicted a thinly veiled caricature of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray in his novel, The Moor's Last Sigh. "The argument is between the ancient and the modern and about how you live in the modern world," he said.
“I hope the judgment tomorrow is a sensible rather than a mystical one.” Rushdie knows what it is to live in the shadow of religious fundamentalism, having spent ten years in hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini delivered a fatwa against him after the publication of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
Incidentally, the Indian government under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was the first in the world to ban Rushdie’s controversial novel.
This happened to be only two years after the then prime minister had ordered the locks of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex in Ayodhya to be removed in 1986.