“I’m all for encouraging criticism of literary works, but Karnad misused this platform for attacking the man, not his works, which I don’t think is justified if the man himself, or someone from his side, is not present as defence.
At least four of the quotes that Karnad used were the result of Chinese whispers; it was as though Naipaul had written in Swahili, and those words were translated first into Dutch, then into Japanese and then into English by [the author] William Dalrymple, where this started. Some of the things that Karnad quoted Naipaul as having said never happened.
I was present on two occasions. Neither Karnad nor Dalrymple was. The first was in Delhi, where Naipaul asked me to come with him to meet the BJP’s cultural wing because he didn’t want to be misrepresented.
What Naipaul said was: “I haven’t come here to say anything to you, but to ask you: What do you stand for?” He went on to speak about how the BJP should abandon its religious agenda, and instead, build vote banks based on development and public benefit. When someone asked him about the Babri Masjid, his exact words were, “It was built by the emperor as an act of hubris.” That’s all he said. Nothing about the demolition.
When we came out, reporters started asking him questions; one asked him whether he supported the demolition, to which he replied, “I said what I had to say inside.” Another asked him if he condoned the Sangh Parivar’s anti-Muslim stance, at which point his wife, Nadira, turned around angrily and reminded the reporters that she was Muslim.
What Karnad heard was a report of a report. Naipaul’s wife, children and son-in-law are Muslim. He is definitely not against Muslims.”
As told to Pankti Mehta