Naipaul Vs Karnad

Girish Karnad needs no introduction. He was last seen in the Salman Khan starrer “Ek Tha Tiger”. He is also a well-known playwright and a prominent figure in the theatre circuit.

VS Naipaul is a writer of Indian heritage who was born in Trinidad. He was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement award at the Mumbai Literature Festival. Karnad did not seem too happy with this decision made by the jury. When it was his turn to speak on the stage, he made the best use of the opportunity at hand to show his dissatisfaction.

He called the Nobel Laureate writer Naipaul, “anti-Muslim”. “Since the publication of his non-fiction book “India: A Wounded Civilisation”, Naipaul has, as Karnad rightly pointed out, never missed a chance to accuse them (Indian Muslims) of having savaged India for five centuries, brought, among other dreadful things, poverty into it, and destroyed the glorious Indian culture,” the statement said. Karnad has been in the limelight ever since.

This left the audience and the organisers in shock, and the media is making full use of this opportunity (as always). I have no idea whether what Karnad did was right or wrong but according to me he misused the platform given to him by the organizers.

Every person especially the writers have a different set of ideologies and it is not necessary for any two writers to agree on something. Don’t we do the same thing in real life as well?

Was it just an act of gaining publicity? Because many other writers came to the forefront overnight, supporting Karnad, and expressing their dislike for Naipaul’s style of writing. One among such writers is Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasreen.

“Girish Karnad is right, Naipaul is tone deaf, wrote nothing about Indian music in his big books on India. Naipaul is a mean Islamophobe writer,” the Bangladeshi writer posted on Twitter. She added that Naipaul would not have been so famous if he had written his books in one of the regional languages of India. “If Naipaul wrote his books in one of the Indian regional languages, he would have been an unknown writer even in India,” she said. Taslima’s comments are going to help Karnad stay alive in the news for long.

Reacting to this whole controversy, the director of the festival, Anil Dharker said that “As for Naipaul being anti-Muslim, his wife Nadira is Muslim and her two children are being brought up as Muslims. Naipaul writes about how Muslim rulers and invaders of the past destroyed temples, monuments and so on. That’s historical fact, and who can argue against that? That does not make Naipaul anti-Muslim.”

Literary taste apart, the whole incident seems to be a fight for secularism. The gap between what secularism actually stands for and what it means today is completely changed.

History tells us that just as the Romans destroyed the Persian civilization, the Christians the Greek civilization, the Mughals savaged that of India. If Karnad’s reasoning is that those criticizing Muslims shouldn’t be given awards, didn’t Dr. B.R. Ambedkar talk about the Muslim mindset in his Thoughts on Pakistan? Does Karnad imply that he shouldn’t have been awarded the Bharat Ratna?

People seem to have forgotten Vadra, Kejriwal, Gadkari in all this hullaballoo and the field of literature seems to be the new battlefield. We as the audience or readers can just sit and watch the match and wait for the winner to be declared.

Shraddha Jandial

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