'Rushdie is an inspiration for all of us'
The recent surge in fundamentalism and intolerance towards artists and writers has raised many a voice of concern among writers in India and abroad.
Author Indra Sinha, whose novel Animal's People was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for 2007 is the latest to speak out against the assault on artists and the curbing of freedom of expression in the world in general and India in particular.
In India recently to attend the Jaipur Literature festival, Sinha, who has been named among the top ten British copywriters of all time, says the rise of fundamentalism and its resultant impact on artists and writers was a cause of worry to him.
"Since 9-11 this is happening all over the world. Since 9-11, governments have seized the opportunity of cracking down on freedom of expressions, which is disheartening" he says.
It was however, in the context of India that he sees this trend as the biggest cause of worry, in the light of some recent incidences in the country.
"I am particularly worried about this trend in context of India. It is really horrifying to hear about writers and painters being hounded", he says in an apparent reference to author Taslima Nasreen and painter MF Hussain.
"These extremist reactions are the result of bloody minded ignorance nurtured in political quarters. If this goes on, India would soon become a land of morons", he adds.
Referring to authors who have been on the receiving end of extremism, Sinha calls the controversial Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie as his 'greatest inspiration' for the dignity with which he has borne the hate-filled onslaught of a large mass of humanity.
"Salman Rushdie is an inspiration for all of us. He has been bearing the trepidation with a lot of dignity", says the author who has been campaigning for justice to the victims of the gas tragedy of 1984, as a copywriter, as an activist and as a novelist.
There might be people baying for Rushdie's blood, but Sinha believes most of them have hardly read what Rushdie actually wrote and it was misinterpretation and misinformation rather than genuine reason for putting the writer of Satanic Verses in the dock.
"Most of the people asking for his head have never read what Rushdie had written in his controversial book. I believe he never wrote what many people think he did", Sinha says, adding, "I would never want anyone to take offence on my work on absurd imaginative grounds".
On whether he believed there needed to be a limit on freedom of expression, the writer says freedom of expression and the obligation to respect others' beliefs were mutual practices and should exist in tandem.
"As human beings, we live with each other. Human rights cannot be taken for granted; they flow through mutual respect for each other's rights and obligations", Sinha says.
"If I want to say something I think is important, if I want to speak out my mind, I would never try to upset someone deliberately or instigate hatred or cause riots. Equally I would like people to respect the fact that I have a right to speak", he adds.
Son of an Indian naval officer and an English writer, Sinha dislikes labels like 'Anglo-Indian' or NRI that are often attached to him.
"I would prefer to be known as a writer in English language, rather than an Anglo-Indian or an NRI writer. This is what Vikram Seth also likes to be called as", he says.
The author, whose last book Animal's People, was a telling portrayal of the courage of people of an imaginary town called 'Khaufpur', in the face of tragedy, a take on Bhopal, is now working on a book depicting the goodness of the people of Britain.
"I am working on five ideas, which are in different stages of development. One of the works I am writing on which is closest to my heart is about the great strength and goodness of the people of England, just as I tried to portray the resilience of the people of Bhopal through my fictional work Animal's People", he says.
Sinha whose first novel The Death of Mr Love, published in 2002 was the story of a famous society murder in Bombay in the 1950s, also has a non-fiction account of the pre-internet generation 'Cybergypsies' to his credit, besides translations of some Sanskrit texts into English.
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