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Rushdie hurt by ‘rebuff’ from intolerant India

Salman Rushdie feels 'hurt' by the 'rebuffs' given to him by India where his books are rejected for university syllabus on the grounds that he was 'not really' an Indian writer. His comment came in a TV interview ahead of the release of his memoir Joseph Anton on his days in hiding after writing the controversial novel The Satanic Verses.

'I have heard about how my books get rejected for university syllabus as they say I am not really an Indian writer...really? In what sense? Where is the foreign blood?

'And that is insulting. These books have been influential in the development of Indian literature, at least they should be studied,' Rushdie said.

Talking about the ban on The Satanic Verses in the country, he said that the book was banned 'without ever being looked at' and that seemed 'shocking' to him. 'One reason why it seemed shocking was since that time the attacks on free expression in India have mounted and it has become easier and easier to attack writers, painters, scholars [and] cartoonists,' he said.

Describing himself as 'an Indian from a Muslim family', Rushdie said that the Indian Muslim could be 'a little bit' moving towards harsher Islam. 'For instance even in a place like Kashmir where the kind of Islam on offer used to very
sufi
influenced Islam, you see the beginnings of this very harsher Islam and I think that is going to spread.

'And of course there are groups in India which are interested to push that harsher ideology. So that's a great change, because the Indian Islam in which I grew up was always a very open, tolerant, argumentative, talkative community. All the great poets of India came out of that tradition and it would be a shame for it to be lost,' he said.

Rushdie feels that India is no longer the haven of creative thinking and cited attack on the inclusion of A K Ramunajan's essay '300 Ramayanas' in the Delhi university and Rohinton Mistry's novel in the Bombay university syllabus.

'The fact that [M F] Husain was lost to India for so long, that much of his work has been permanently lost to India is a tragedy,' he said.

Asked what is the best way to defend freedom of speech, Rushdie answered, 'fearless' as one lives in a 'very timid time' partly because there have been all these threats and attacks.

'I think the artist at least must remain fearless and do his work without regard to those kind of consequences. And then it's up to society as a whole to make sure that the space in which art can flourish is protected. And may be, India is not doing such a good job,' he said.
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