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Rampage against tradition of post colonial English writing in JLF
The British Empire may go, but not Shakespeare. We may also say that fundamentalists may go, but..

MUCH INK has been spilled over Rushdie’s visit to Jaipur Literary Festival and some are in a festive mood after their victory in successfully aborting his entry to the Pink City. Rushdie is not only a litterateur but also master. We Indians need him not because he won the Booker prize in 1993 for his Midnight’s Children but for the prestigious tradition of post colonial writing in English in India. Today we are on the verge of attaining freedom from colonial hangover in literature because of the great Indian writers in English.

In V.S.Naipaul’s writings we get the robust literary tradition, but without Salman Rushdie in spite of his Satanic Verses, the tradition is not complete. The post colonial writing in English cannot be thought of without Rushdie’s novels, essays, children books and reportage. Carlyle long ago puts such a question: Shakespeare or the British Empire? We can also put the same question, in a different format: Fundamentalists or Rushdie in post colonial writing? The answer may infuriate some but hopefully not many. Carlyle wrote: The British Empire may go, but not Shakespeare. We may also say that fundamentalists may go, but Rushdie will remain for us forever like M F Hussain’s images hanging on our walls in spite of the fundamentalist threat looming large in our country where the inevitable vote-bank calculus prevails unfortunately more than anything. It is not important who is responsible, Rajasthan police, Rajasthan Government, Chidambaram or the Jaipur police. The million dollar question is why  will the author of Midnight’s Children be deterred from coming to India and why will the lovers of post colonial English literature miss him in such an uncouth way?

One reads his Midnight’s Children as a literary mirror for events in pre and post Independence India. Never before a more scathing allegory was attempted on the partition of India. Today a new genre of literature has emerged, translation studies and partition literature. But without Rushdie that genre of post colonial literature is unthinkable. The story of Saleem Sinai lays bare most artistically the trauma and trails of agony facing the country of cultural , linguistic, religious and political differences. Even to read about the emergency trauma of Indira Gandhi regime this book is a pathfinder. The emergency signals the end of the abilities of the Midnight Children.

The Jaipur people did not expect Rushdie to read from the banned Satanic Verses, but they waited for his reading a few pages from Midnight’s Children which is so close to Indian culture and so relevant to the understanding of Indian Independence and the tragic partitioning of the sub-continent. The narrative as every reader knows comprises of Indian cultural history. Saleem, in this novel muses on the Indian love tradition of Radha - Krishna, and Rama - Sita. The novel chronologically entwines characters from both India and the West and thus post colonial Indian history is better portrayed all throughout with the technique of magical realism. It recalls the indigenous Indian culture of oral recounting in the context of Indian independence.

India is a country that this internationally acclaimed author of Indian origin has visited many times in the past. He even attended the Jaipur Literary festival in 2007.But for mysterious reasons, this time all these unpleasant things happened. Who will judge, who is to visit this country where Huns, Mughals and Pathans visited again and again to get mingled in the distant past into the vast body of Indian civilization? Mysterious groups “out to kill Rushdie and the cries against Rushdie coming, got used as an excuse to put pressure on the organisers of the Literary Festival to stop Rushdie from visiting. They may later know what harm they have done to the values of secularism and democracy, but they do not really know what rampage they have done against the literary tradition of post colonial Indian English writing.

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