Acclaimed author Salman Rushdie has brushed off attacks on him for supporting writers protesting against rising intolerance in India, describing his detractors on social media as “Modi Toadies”.
Rushdie, 68, has been targeted on social media since he tweeted his support on Monday for Nayantara Sahgal and other writers who have returned awards or quit the Sahitya Akademi over the literary organisation’s silence on attacks on free speech.
“Here come the Modi Toadies. FYI, Toadies: I support no Indian political party & oppose all attacks on free speech. Liberty is my only party,” the Booker Prize winning author tweeted after a barrage of hate messages.
“Toady” is a term used to refer to a person who behaves obsequiously with powerful people to get their approval.
Sahgal, the 88-year-old niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, was among the first to lodge her protest against the Sahitya Akademi’s silence. Since then, more than 20 writers have either returned their awards or quit the Akademi to protest against the murders of noted rationalists and the lynching of a Muslim man at Bisada in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he had eaten beef.
Rushdie also said in an interview with NDTV that the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and institutions such as the Sahitya Akademi is permitting a new “degree of thuggish violence” in India.
The 68-year-old Mumbai-born author said he wasn’t taking sides between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress but he believed there was something different unfolding in India.
“...I think what’s crept into Indian life now is a degree of thuggish violence which is new. And it seems to be...given permission by the silence of official bodies, by the silence of the Sahitya Akademi which is what so many of the writers are protesting about, by the silence of the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr Modi is a very talkative gentleman, he has a lot to say on a lot of subjects and it would be very good to hear what he has to say about all this,” he said.
“There are attacks on ordinary liberties, the ordinary right of assembly, the ordinary right to organise an event in which people can talk about books and ideas freely and without hostility. That seems to be in real grave danger in India today,” he said from London.
The latest tweet from Rushdie, whose 1989 novel “The Satanic Verses” was the target of a fatwa for allegedly hurting Muslim sentiments, came after Shiv Sena workers blackened the face of former BJP member Sudheendra Kulkarni in Mumbai for organizing an event to launch a book by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri.