When Salman Rushdie decided to pull out of the Jaipur Literary festival, seems like it shattered many hearts with people calling the action cowardly (even calling him a coward) and many telling that it is sad and it should not have happened. But is that really true?
While it is true that the Government did not have the balls to tell the damn extremists to go to hell and guard the freedom of a visitor, it is also true that they do not probably feel that Salman Rushdie attending the Lit festival is the most important thing for India. They fear that Rushdie’s attendance is going to cause unrest that they cannot contain and that in my opinion is a cowardly act.
The problem is that this whole issue of a Don and hired guns attempting an assassination under the call from religious sects will die off soon and no one will go in detail to find if it was true. May be the people who declared the threat will never be dealt with so that tomorrow someone will think before they try to obstruct the freedom of a person in a democratic country. The problem with all of us is we lose interest in things very fast once their public and news value is gone.
While I personally feel that Salman Rushdie should be able to freely attend a literary festival anywhere in the world, I am with him in his decision to not attend. Because making a decision on one’s own wellbeing, to ensure that one is safe and sound is not cowardly.
After all the hue and cry and festivities are over what will be left is Salman and his family. This is not like a situation where you see a lady beaten in public or child crying in a burning house and you stand mum to save yourselves. He made a choice he felt best for him and his loved ones than succumbing to the cries from the “we should not budge” crowd. Making India safe for Salman or any other artist who expresses their artistic freedom is the duty of the Government, Security and people of India and not the artists themselves.
Someone said that Salman’s decision is like a punch on the face of the ordinary man fighting extremists. What the heck does that mean? There are thousands who wish to throw the blame on decisions taken by others. They sit silent saying that their only chance to prove a point was lost because Salman Rushdie thought about his wellbeing and acted cowardly. What we need is solutions not proving points.
Salman Rushdie not being able to attend the festival is a sign that we live in a world where it is becoming extremely difficult to be truly free. Every threat is taking its toll on us and we should understand the root issue is not a literary festival, it is that we are losing trust in our surroundings.
We have fanatics in all religions resorting to extremism as a way to define their religiosity and we have secularists who take a middle road and then the anti-religious folks who blatantly blame every other religious person. Everyone is trapped in their own prison unable to be free.
The problem might not be fanatics (we always had them) but the strict hands to tackle fanatics before they become extremists. The lines between being too religious and then being a fanatic and finally an extremist is very thin but when you cross these you start losing much of the virtues that you have as sensible human beings. The rules that make us human no more exist in those terrains and we become nothing far from being monsters.
Even in this case it is rumored that a Don is hired, so at the end of the day the chain drops at the feet of the illegal guys. Dons, corrupt officers, corrupt politicians, profiteers of miseries all are linked to every extremism as without them extremism cannot exist.
The extremists live in the same world we live and use the same facilities that we have and play with the corruptness in our own system and unleash havoc. We don’t trust our own security staff, police, policy makers or politicians and fear that any statement of extremism can become a reality in a corrupt system. We fear that our surroundings will betray us when the need arises and we need scapegoats like Salman Rushdie and other runaway literary people and artists to reinstate in us the feeling that someone if standing up for this so that we can sleep at night.
As free individuals we should first be able to look beyond religion, ethnicity, economic stature, beliefs and political leniency. We need faith in our ability to see others as one among us, beyond the differences. Literary festivals will come and go what will remain is our ability or inability to trust the person next to us who ever he or she is and that is in my two cents true freedom.