How a ‘coward’ literary society is killing ‘good’ Indian writing


You cannot play it safe and expect good writing to come out of a place: Omair Ahmad in the Daily.O

arundhati_roy_20140310.jpgPretty much everybody I know in India has an opinion on Charlie Hebdo. Even if some of them are confused whether it is the name of a man or a magazine, they do know that Charlie Hebdo is French, and there were attacks, murders, and there is something to do with cartoons and Freedom of Expression. Actually that might be too much knowledge. Opinions are formed without even such details.

For example, most people know that Salman Rushdie is (in)famous for a book called The Satanic Verses. They would not have read the book, and they might – just maybe – know that the book is restricted in India. Most people will tell you it is banned. This is not true.

The book is not banned, but its import into India is. The distinction is important because, if you want to change the current state of affairs, you at least need to know who to approach, what to argue. The silly, self-glorifying spectacle of authors reading passages from the book – which they are entirely legally allowed to do – makes no change to an import ban, and leaves the debate on freedom of expression exactly where it is – murdered in a ditch by the side of the road while we clink wineglasses and express our horror at the barbarians at the gates. This is satyagraha as silliness.

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