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Naipaul has no idea of Muslim contribution to India: Girish Karnad

Sunday November 04, 2012 05:37:27 PM, Agencies

Mumbai: V.S. Naipaul has come in forstinging criticism from noted playwright Girish Karnad for his views on Muslims in India, with the latter saying the Nobel laureate has no idea of the community's contribution to the country's history.

"Naipaul has no idea of how Muslims contributed to Indian history," Karnad said during a session on theatre, at the 'Literature Live!' literature festival here on Friday where he attacked the Indian-origin writer for his reported visit to BJP office after Babri mosque demolition, news agency PTI reported.


Referring to the fall of Vijayanagar empire, Karnad said that while history tells a totally different story, Naipaul has written in his book "India: A Wounded Civilisation" that Hampi pertained to "vibrant Muslims destroying decadent Hindus, which is a generalisation and simplification of the events to fit into his thinking", according to news agency IANS.

Dwelling on Naipaul's anti-Islam stance in his writing, Karnad said, "Given that music defines our daily existence... you find it in the streets, in the restaurants and so on... you would expect an exploration of India to comment on that.

"Now Mr Naipaul has written three books on India. If you read them, you find that not even one of them contains any reference to music. He has gone through the whole of India without responding to Indian music. I think that only means that he is tone deaf," Karnad said.

Referring to the analysis of Indian culture and music by certain Indologists, Karnad said the whole matrix was already there — the foreigners came, they looked at Indian culture, they saw pristine Hindu culture, they saw that it was corrupted and it was corrupted by Muslims.


“Anyone who has read Naipaul’s books will immediately recognise this matrix, which, he claims, he arrived at himself but it is already there in any Indological study long before Naipaul, nearly 200 years before he wrote his books…


"He writes, for instance, India was ravaged by the Muslim invaders. They ruled it severely, ravaged it for five or six centuries, and they left nothing and they brought poverty to India and so on", Karnad observed.

Naipaul, who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the festival, was not present when Karnad made the remarks before a small audience which included actor Naseeruddin Shah.

Calling Naipaul an unreliable writer of non-fiction as far as India is concerned, Karnad said, "He really doesn't pay much attention to the details of the texts he studies."


'won't write about India any more'
On the other hand, V.S. Naipaul has flatly declared he would no longer write about India or its people, giving a shock to the who's who of Mumbai's literary circles and glitterati at the ongoing five-day literary festival here.

The Trinidadian-British Naipaul, of Indian origin, also broke down when asked a question about his significant literary creation "A House For Mr. Biswas", penned over five decades ago.

As author Farrukh Dhondy asked him about the "big novel" published way back in 1961, and how he started his literary career, Naipaul, 80, first did not reply and then broke down.

"I have told this story so many times, but it is very moving...," he trailed off on the query about the book based on the life of father.

Intervening, his wife Nadira, who was present in the audience, requested Dhondy to proceed to the next question, at the well-attended Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest, where he (Naipaul) was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award late Wednesday night.

After that, Naipaul engaged in a moving discussion on the challenges of travel writing, his early struggle as a budding author, his experiences and exploration of India, and the death of his pet cat Augustus, presented by Dhondy last year.

"My background is Indian and I have always been interested in it (India)," he said on his decision to travel in India in 1962 for his next book "An Area of Darkness".

"When I started writing, I wanted my experiences to stay with me... I didn't want the time to pass... the book was based on my internal discovery of India," he said.

Naipul then shocked and saddened the audience with his next remark. Saying he has written three books on India - two novels and one essay "as thick as a book", he declared he would not write on it any longer.

"I have written enough," he said.


Reacting to Karnad's remarks, festival director Anil Dharker today said, "We were all taken aback by Girish Karnad's attack on V S Naipaul. After all, we had invited him (Karnad) to speak about his journey in theatre, and Naipaul had nothing to do with that! Even the packed audience had come to listen to Karnad's talk about theatre.

"I am all for free speech but free speech presupposes a dialogue, not a diatribe. Karnad's two objections to Naipaul getting the award are demonstrably false," Dharker said in a statement.

"Naipaul is of Indian origin, so we are not rewarding a foreigner. As for Naipaul being anti-Muslim, his wife Nadira is Muslim and her two children are being bought up as Muslim. Naipaul writes about how Muslim rulers and invaders of the past destroyed temples, monuments and so on. That's historical facts, and who can argue against that? That does not make Naipaul anti-Muslim.

"I also resent the implication that we, as organisers, are somehow not secular. I am a Trustee of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) led by Teesta Setalvad, and we have been fighting over 200 cases in court against (Narendra) Modi and his government over the 2002 Gujarat violence," Dharker added.

Author Girish Karnad's outburst questioning an award conferred on Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul here four days ago elicted a mixed bag of reactions here Saturday. Karnad had called Naipaul anti-Muslim.

Speaking at the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LifFest here Friday, Karnad surprised the audience by questioning the lifetime achievement award conferred on Naipaul on account of his (Naipaul) anti-Muslim remarks.

Karnad had said: "When it comes to an Indian award given to an author of Indian descent in India, should not his irresponsible remarks (about Muslims) also be considered?"

Naipaul has been criticised for referring to the Muslim community as "a bunch of raiders and marauders" and Karnad referred to some of his writings to justify his point.

Naipaul's friend and author Farookh Dhondy dismissed Karnad's remarks saying it appeared "like a courtroom where the prosecution was allowed to make points but the defence was silenced".

"Naipaul has never expressed views about the religion or any animosity towards Muslims," Dhondy said.

He said that Naipaul's wife Nadira is a Pakistani and his other family members also belong to the Muslim community.

Anil Dharker, director of the LitFest, also sided with Naipaul.

"The award has been conferred for a body of works and not for a select few remarks," Dharker said.

However, many in the audience supported Karnad though some were angry at not being allowed to present an opposing viewpoint.

The controversial comments have also sparked off a debate on web with author Taslima Nasreen tweeting in support of Karnad. If Naipaul wrote his books in one of the Indian regional languages, he would have been an unknown writer even in India.

The Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LifFest with master classes, literary sessions, workshops and performances opened Wednesday and will go on till Nov 4.

Top Indian writers and literary figures and experts from different fields will be speaking on variety of topics, while there will also be performances on plays or dramas by leading literary figures.

Some of the participants during the festival include Inua Ellams, Girish Karnad, Tanika Gupta, Anish Trivedi, and Chris Larner.






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