Playwright Girish Karnad refused to back down on his uncharitable comment on Nobel laureate VS Naipaul Friday that his “writings on modern India should be classified as fiction”.
Ignoring the storm triggered by his comment at the Literature Live festival in Mumbai, Karnad told HT on Saturday that he stood by all he had said. And that includes his comment on Naipaul’s alleged anti-Muslim stance.
He said, “Naipaul has said so many things against the Muslims — have the Muslims been there to defend themselves when he did?”
But Naipaul, who made an unscheduled appearance at the Think fest in Goa on Saturday, said, while introducing Arab poet Adonis: “Adonis is a great Arab poet, a secular poet. In India, this word has a very narrow meaning; it means belonging to one party or another. But for Adonis, it is a much bigger idea…”
Anil Dharker, director of Literature Live fest — which conferred a lifetime achievement award to Naipaul — came out in support of the author. He told HT that Karnad had “abused the platform” he had been given.
“When we invite people to speak at Literature Live, they are called on the basis of their expertise. Girish Karnad is an expert in theatre, not a literary critic, and certainly not an expert in studying Naipaul,” said Dharker.
On Friday, Karnad had used more than half his one-hour slot to criticise the Nobel laureate, when he was supposed to be talking about his own life in theatre.
He also commented about Naipaul’s “fear of Muslims… apparent in his writings” and went on to question the wisdom of giving him a lifetime achievement award.
Farrukh Dhondy, a British writer of Indian origin, told HT: “Some of the things that Karnad quoted Naipaul as having said never happened. Naipaul is not anti-Muslim. His wife and stepchildren are Muslim… Karnad has quoted reports of reports.”