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If Rushdie had spoken

It may have precipitated a nuclear war with Pakistan. Mercifully, the ruling government saved the day, HT writes.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2012 01:52 IST
Hindustan Times

A disaster has been averted and once again inanity has prevailed. If it was about Salman Rushdie first destroying the secular fabric of this country by landing on our shores to attend a literature festival, it was later about what untold damage would happen if passages were read out by others from a book of his banned in India. Then came the danger of Mr Rushdie appearing on a giant screen via a video link from outside the country. What would have happened if the author spoke to the gathered crowds in a festival in Jaipur without bodily being present? Pretty much the same if the man was physically present there — this much the loonies figured out.

We can only wildly conjecture the following scenario that wasn’t allowed to happen by the ruling government whose paramount concern isn’t only peace in the country but your safety. The moment Mr Rushdie’s face would have appeared on the screen, those watching would have been blinded. As soon as he would have opened his mouth and spoken, hundreds of ears would have started bleeding - even as outside the grounds of the literary festival thousands of riots would have broken out between readers and non-readers, which would have snowballed into a full-blown civil war along communal lines. Who knows? It could have even precipitated a nuclear war with Pakistan. But the reason cited by the organisers for pulling the plug on the ‘Rushdie son et lumiere’ was “the advice of the police” who had told them that “there are people inside the venue ready to create trouble” and “to listen to the police to save the people here, our children and everyone”.

In other words, it wasn’t worth the trouble to let the incredibly powerful, soul’n’faith’n’nation-destroying Salman Rushdie (praise be upon him) have a literary chat lest goons and thugs in costume wreak havoc. And, of course, not the police, not the government, not the army, not even Allah could have then done anything to stop those bent on ‘creating trouble’ from, well, creating trouble. This, we are afraid, is the price a country’s liberal citizens have to pay when everyone reads and understands the finer nuances of novels — especially one that is so playful.

First Published: Jan 26, 2012 00:55 IST