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I waited for 10 years to speak up against Naipaul: Karnad

Last updated on: November 4, 2012 17:54 IST

I waited for 10 years to speak up against Naipaul: Karnad

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In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN's Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, acclaimed playwright Girish Karnad defended his recent public attack on Nobel Laureate V S Naipaul at the Mumbai Literature Festival.

Karnad said he has no regrets about speaking up against Naipaul and has been waiting for ten years to do it. Karnad also said he had no objections to being labelled a professional secularist. 

Full Transcript:

Do you regret your attack on Naipaul? 

Why should I regret what I said? In fact I waited for ten years to say it. As I said I heard him saying on BBC television ten years ago. Since then I was waiting for an opportunity to say that, 'sorry, you are absolutely wrong'.

I could not do that earlier because I was a government servant. But now I'd a chance to do that. I regret neither having made this statement nor having made the statement at the festival. It was a perfect time, perfect place and a perfect answer.

Did you misuse the Mumbai Lit Fest forum?

I've been waiting for ten years to do that. While I was in London ten years ago, I heard an interview on BBC. During that interview Naipaul went about Muslims, how the Muslims destroyed India, its culture and so on. No one was there to defend the Muslims.

The great Naipaul was holding forth on Indian culture and attacking the Indian Muslims. I could not respond simply because I was a government servant then. I was the director of the Nehru Center. If I had to say something I had to go to the High Commissioner. I had to keep my mouth shut.

Again there was a conference at Nimrana organised by the ICCR. When I was invited to the literary fest, I told my boss that I want to have the right to criticise Naipaul. He was the kingpin; he was just given the Nobel Prize. But my boss Himachal Som said it's an honour for him and it would be better if you did not say it.

I had got the invitation of Mumbai Literature fest long back but two days before the fest I came to know that he is being honoured. This was my chance to say everything that I had not been able to say earlier. He is being honoured in Mumbai; what is the point my going back to Bangalore and protest about it? I had to protest right there, so I did.

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Image: Nobel Laureate V S Naipaul
Photographs: Reuters

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'I will defend the contributions of Muslims to Indian culture'

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Are you a professional secularist? Should every author be judged according to their views on Muslims? 

Why not? Whether it's professional or not professional I don't care. But attack on Muslims annoys me. Someone is from outside and without any evidence he just states. He just says Muslims brought poverty to India. It may be professional secularism to attack him..good, so be it.

I will be a professional secularist. But I will defend the contribution of Muslims to India culture. Particularly attack by an outsider who came here at the age of 25 and if you read him, his three books, he knows very little about Indian culture.

 Is Naipaul deified in India?

The whole status of Naipaul changed with the Nobel prize. ICCR conference at Nimrana was held just after he got the Nobel Prize. I was working for ICCR in London. I said to my boss why him, there are other Nobel Prize winners....There is Orhan Pamuk for instance.

He (Naipaul) is not an Indian , he is a Trinidadian.

Are you offended by Naipual's views on India as well as his views on Muslims? 

He is journalist, he comes here and he does not like India. Why should everyone like India? Several people who came before him have criticised India. I don't object to that.

He comes with a syndrome of Indian culture being destroyed by the Muslims. What I'm saying is what he is being given a lifetime achievement award for? How do these people who give this award to him relate to his anti-Muslim comments? Do they accept that as a truth about India?

Naipaul has said that you are only demonstrating that Indian secularism is too rigid?

It's not just about Muslims but also about Hindus or even sub castes. For instance, he comes here and he sees the 10th century temples destroyed and he says something is wrong, we have to note. What's wrong? The Muslims have destroyed it.

The man does not have the conception that in the 9th, 10th or 11th century India many new religions were coming up and fought with each other..Not the Muslims only.

The Vaishnavaites, Jains...they all fought with each other and so on. He does not see any of that. He has no idea of 11th and 12th century Hinduism coming up and the conflict within it. He just blames the Muslims. It has nothing to do with secularism.

He never talks of facts, he may justify himself by saying that secularists are blind. But his views are not supported by any evidence.

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Image: Noted playwright Girish Karnad
Photographs: Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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'Do the festival organisers agree with Naipaul?'

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On Naipaul's right to have his views

He has his right....I said it in my lecture. He has a right to say it. What are the organisers of the festival doing by honouring him for it? Do they agree with him? Prove that. It's alright for Naipaul. Anyone can go on.

On imposing censorship who tried to raise questions

When Naipaul was attacking Muslims on BBC in London, was there anybody to defend the Muslims? In a New York newspaper, I don't recall New York Times or the New Yorker, he writes an essay and suddenly attacks the Muslims. Did he consult anyone? Why should he have a chance now? This was my chance to react.

He has a Muslim wife and he has a happy married life. But I was not talking about his married life. I was talking about what he has written and what emerges as his public statement. I won't be so vulgar to mix up the two issues.

He has certainly a right to his private life and I won't comment on it. But I would like him to defend or give evidence on what he is saying in public and has said in so many books.

On Hindutva forces getting more strength

The next prime minister may be a man who organised the slaughter of more than 3000 Muslims in Gujarat. He is a candidate; he is being touted as the next prime minister. 

When Naipaul was being adored as the Nobel laureate, he goes to the BJP office, talks to them and later he is reported to have said, "I'm happy being appropriated by BJP".

Before that he was not a political creature. But if that is so, then I have an objection to his political stance.


Image: When Naipaul was attacking Muslims on BBC in London, was there anybody to defend the Muslims, asks Karnad


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