“I don’t see how you can write anything of value if you don’t offend someone.”
― Marvin Harris
Authors play a big role in informing and reforming a society. The power of the written word is said to be more impactful than weapons. However, the power of their words has landed some authors in great controversies. Here is a list of these scandalous authors that you must know about:
1. Salman Rushdie
This renowned author has clinched a lot of appreciation for his works, but he is forced to live in exile because of some of his writings. Salman Rushdie rose to stardom after his second book “Midnight’s Children” won the Booker prize. But another creative work of his made him the centre of hatred. Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ was widely condemned by the Islamic community worldwide. He was accused of blasphemy and the Ayatollah of Iran issued a fatwa against him. The book revolves around the lives of two Muslim boys who find themselves at a crossroads between their traditional Islamic values and decadent Western culture. This book contains criticism of the Prophet, the primary reason for inviting hatred by the followers of Islam. Their fury forced Rushdie to move underground for nine years where he kept changing his whereabouts.
2. Khushwant Singh
Who does not know about this man? In his life, he entertained the readers with his satirical books and touched many hearts with his earthy, rooted-to-the-soil works, such as ‘Train to Pakistan’. Though this writer is arguably respected by all after his death, his life didn’t follow the same course. He often faced flak for his witty, irreverent comments. Though he had many books and short stories under his belt, Singh called himself an accidental writer. He had a penchant towards wine, women and gossip which made him a controversial figure. He openly spoke against the RSS and BJP, called the Khalistan movement the funeral of Sikhs, referred to past Indian prime ministers as donkeys and editors of leading newspapers ill-read. Besides his classics like, ‘I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale’ and ‘Delhi’, Singh also wrote a number of pieces on Sikh religion and culture, Delhi, politics and Urdu poetry. He was a man of brutal honesty which made him the most controversial writer post-independence.
3. Chetan Bhagat
With his books adapted into successful movies and a huge youth fan-following, Bhagat is undoubtedly a popular writer. However, we all have heard his name often in the news for wrong reasons. Many fellow writers have claimed his books to be immature and overly dramatic. His opinions on certain issues have invited public opprobrium often. After his recent book “Half Girlfriend” was published, Bhagat was accused of plagiarism. One of his tweets about rape raised many eyebrows, “The rupee is asking, is there no punishment for my rapists.” Twitter users accused him trivialising the gravity of rape crimes. Recently, Chetan got into a twitter war with Twinkle Khanna and the tiff left Chetan retreating in embarrassed silence.
Well if u were taller,had more hair u could have got bobbydeol’s role&if were way cooler,than Srk would be jobless:) https://t.co/LZFAgdX4PC
— Twinkle Khanna (@mrsfunnybones) April 27, 2015
4. Arundhati Roy
This woman, other than her books, is widely known for courting controversy for her outspoken opinionated attitude. This 53-year-old author gathered a lot of appreciation for her book “The God of Small Things” and continued to remain in the news after that. Roy is open about her opinions which often attract the ire of the establishment. In one statement, she expressed her support for the independence of Kashmir from India. This outraged many groups and politicians and she was asked to withdraw her comments. She has been known to condemn, through her articles and speeches, a lot of what she says is wrong with society. She said the government is incapable of handling the Maoist problem, she criticised Anna Hazare and called Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial candidature tragic.
5. Taslima Nasreen
She is a Bangladeshi writer, but is often featured in Indian news for a whole lot of reasons. Nasreen became the centre of controversies after her 1993 book “Lajja” got published. Nasrin dedicated the book “To the people of the Indian subcontinent,” beginning the text with the words, “let another name for religion be humanism.” She suffered a lot of physical attacks as this book wasn’t in line with the Islamic philosophy. She was forced to flee Bangladesh in 1994 and after spending ten years of exile in countries like Sweden and Germany, she returned to India. Her stay in India too has been very controversial. She recently asked the government of India to allow her to stay indefinitely here after the government granted the same permission to singer Adnan Sami. Also, because of her works and views, she was threatened with death by Al Qaeda-linked extremists.
These authors had to go through a lot of ordeals because they created their own rules and did not hesitate in extending their perspective openly. Though they had to face a lot of criticism but this could not shake their resolve which is praiseworthy and inspirational. There should be space for dissenting voices in a liberal, modern democracy like India which claims to accord the right to expression to all its citizens.