Naipaul vs Karnad, pro-Muslim and anti-Muslim and Fact vs Fiction: Negationism in Indian History

Naipaul vs Karnad, pro-Muslim and anti-Muslim and Fact vs Fiction: Negationism in Indian History

Vedaprakash

Pro-Muslim and anti-Muslim stances at the Literary Festival: It is strange to watch that the popular writers violate the code of decorum and start flaring-up with egoist outburst or emotions attacking other. The Mumbai Lit fest on 02-11-2912 (Friday) witnessed such a kind of major drama when veteran actor and theatre artist Girish Karnad slammed 2001 Nobel Prize laureate VS Naipaul[1] and called him anti-Muslim[2]. Karnad, who was present at the lit-fest on Friday to conduct a class on theatre, spoke at length about Naipaul. He said, “Now Mr Naipaul has written three books on India, three very big books and if you read them you will find that not one of them contains any reference to music. He has gone through the whole of India without responding to Indian music. Now I think that this only means that he is tone deaf. That’s my reading of the situation but then there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be tone deaf. He has no music and therefore no conception of what the Muslims contributed to our history. This concept of what the Muslims did in Indian history clearly shows that he has no idea of at least the music bit.” He also attacked Naipaul for his reported visit to BJP office after Babri mosque demolition in December 1992[3]. Dwelling on Naipaul’s anti-Islam stance in his writing, he said, “Given that music defines our daily existence… you find it in the streets, in the restaurants and so on… you would expect an exploration of India to comment on that.” It is not known how he had chosen the platform to vent out his ego to turn against Naipaul under the bogey of “anti-Muslim” stance, which was not at all relevant or subject of the Lit-Fest organized.

Music with the Saints of Bakti and Fakirs of Sufism[4]: Karnad said one had to understand different strains of music. The Bhakti and Sufi movements often overlapped. If one had to understand Indian culture, how Hindus and Muslims and the whole historical process reacted, one had to know music. “If you don’t know music, you cannot understand it, and I think this is, let me state right away at the beginning, this is one problem with Mr. Naipaul’s analysis of Indian culture.” Referring to the analysis of Indian culture and music by certain Indologists, Karnad said the whole matrix was already there — the foreigners came, they looked at Indian culture, they saw pristine Hindu culture, they saw that it was corrupted and it was corrupted by Muslims. “Anyone who has read Naipaul’s books will immediately recognise this matrix, which, he claims, he arrived at himself but it is already there in any Indological study long before Naipaul, nearly 200 years before he wrote his books… He writes, for instance, India was ravaged by the Muslim invaders. They ruled it severely, ravaged it for five or six centuries, and they left nothing and they brought poverty to India and so on.” Not only did he cast aspersions on the credibility of some accounts in Naipaul’s book “India: A Wounded Civilisation”, Karnad also lashed out at the Nobel laureate for his critical views on the influence of Islam on India[5]. He went on to say Naipaul had no music and therefore no conception of what the Muslims contributed to Indian history. He also commented that he was not an Indian[6]. “Naipaul is a foreigner and he is entitled to his opinion. But why give an award to a man who calls Indian Muslims ‘raiders’ and ‘marauders’? I have Muslim friends and I feel strongly about this,” he said[7]. It is not known as to why he all of sudden he could not have relished the hard and bitter facts of the Muslims marauding India starting with the invasion of Sind in 712 CE. Ironically, orthodox Muslims do not accept music as a part of Islam, as it is “anathema / haram”!

Music alone does not decide the contribution of the Muslims to India: Karnad must have known about the nuances of Indian music and also that of the Arabs, which he decided to call “Muslim”. It is not the fusion, as now the modern manipulators call the bastardization of mixing “western” and “Indian” styles of music together to create more noise to hate the original. The Muslims have done exactly the same thereby, the Indians were forced to accept such bastardized mixture of unsynchronizable notes. The Muslim Sufis actually tried to imitate Indian method of worship to convert Indians. Perhaps, any music critic could contend or settle with telling that every music form has certain individual characteristics. Therefore, if Karnad stands for the “contribution of Muslims to India”, he should spell out what type of contribution he is talking about, including the destruction of temples, breaking of idols, raping Indian women and keeping them in their harems, just to mention a few. By pointing out this, the “secularists” could very well dub it as “communal”, but truth is truth only, in spite of arguments put forward.

Karnard – not prepared to answer: Not everyone in the gathering, however, was willing to buy Karnad’s arguments. When the session was thrown open to the audience, Naipaul’s friend, writer Farrokh Dhondy, rose to ask a question. But Karnad refused to entertain any queries from him. “This is like a court where the prosecution has been presenting its case without giving any opportunity to the defence,” Dhondy remarked in anger. This is the typical present day mentality of scholars as they take shelter under such pretext to escape from facing inconvenient questions from the common people or learned people. Many times, conferences, seminars and workshops have symposiums, memorial lectures and so on, but the speakers or paper-readers never care to respond or the organizers cleverly protect them by telling “No questions”! In other words, the speakers just come to talk about what he knew or what he could speak about conveniently just to get TA and DA. He is not bothered about the quality of his speech. Many times, the audience might not be interested in listening to such forced speeches making most of them to either sleep or talk about their personal affairs.

Did Muslims not destroy temples, break idols etc in India?: Even school and college students know that what Muslims have done to India, in spite of the secularization of social processes and white-washing the atrocities committed by them and totally removing such topics in the history or Civics text books. Any Indian visits temples, mutts, ghats and other places of religion, he could easily understand who were responsible for the broken temples, damaged sculptures, ruined mantaps, smashed idols etc., with the patch-up work carried on and restored by the Archaeological department. In fact, there have been inscriptions to vouchsafe that the Muslims did so. Of course, the Muslim chronicles have recorded with pride how the Mohammedans carried out their jihad in cleaning the kufruness in India by their holy act of demolishing temples and breaking idols. Therefore, it is ironical that the learned celebrity like Karnad should have tried to negate such historical past. In any case, he cannot prevent the candidates to read such stuff, when they prepare for competitive examinations, particularly, Civil Service Examinations every year.

Lit-Fest organizers – Secularists or communalists?: Anil Dharker, director of Mumbai LitFest, said on 03-11-2912 (Saturday) he was taken aback by playwright Girish Karnad’s attack on Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, who was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the event[8]. “After all, we had invited him to speak about his journey in theatre, and Naipaul had nothing to do with that,” Mr. Dharker said in a statement. “Even the packed audience had come to listen to Karnad’s talk about theatre.” Dharker said he was all for free speech but free speech pre-supposed a dialogue, not diatribe. “Karnad’s two objections to Naipaul getting the Landmark Literature Live Lifetime Achievement Award are demonstrably false. Naipaul is of Indian origin, so we are not rewarding a foreigner. As for Naipaul being anti-Muslim, his wife Nadira is Muslim and her two children are being bought up as Muslim. Naipaul writes about how Muslim rulers and invaders of the past destroyed temples, monuments and so on. That’s historical facts, and who can argue against that? That does not make V.S. Naipaul anti-Muslim,” he pointed out. He also resented the implication that the organisers were somehow not secular. “I am a trustee of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), led by Teesta Setalvad, and we have been fighting over 200 cases in court against [Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra] Modi and his government over the 2002 violence.” So by opposing Modi, one could become a secularist! In a statement, he added that, “I am all for free speech but free speech presupposes a dialogue, not a diatribe. Karnad’s two objections to Naipaul getting the award are demonstrably false,” Dharker said in a statement.

Taslima Nasreen opposing Naipaul and supporting Kanard – an opportunist act or showing that she is a Muslim: The controversial comments have sparked off a debate on web with author Taslima Nasreen tweeting in support of Karnad. Nasreen on Saturday tweeted that Naipaul was an Islamophobe. “Girish Karnad is right, Naipaul is tone deaf, wrote nothing about Indian music in his big books on India. Naipaul is a mean Islamophobe writer,” the Bangladeshi writer posted on the micro-blogging website[9]. She also called Naipaul ‘a male chauvinistic pig’ for his earlier statement claiming that he found no woman worth his literary match. Responding to a tweet she claimed, while “Girish Karnad is neither a Hindu hater nor Muslim hater, Naipaul is definitely Muslim hater.” She added that Naipaul would not have been so famous if he had written his books in one of the regional languages of India. “If Naipaul wrote his books in one of the Indian regional languages, he would have been an unknown writer even in India,” she said. She commented that, “If Naipaul wrote his books in one of the Indian regional languages, he would have been an unknown writer even in India”. Festival organiser Anil Dharker expressed dismay over the controversy saying, “We were all taken aback by Girish Karnad’s attack on VS Naipaul. After all, we had invited him to speak about his journey in theatre and Mr Naipaul had nothing to do with that!”. However, Karnard refused to apologize[10] for his outburst during the function, “I completely stand by my statement. I haven’t made any mistake, rather I came prepared for it,” Karnad said, as his remarks shocked the organisers of the Festival.

Naipaul – is a Hindu or Muslim?: Religion perhaps does not play any role in case of rich or popular people and celebrities, unless they are communal. V. S. Naipaul has married to a Muslim lady and his children are raised as Muslims only. Speaking about the incident later, Dhondy said Naipaul never made the remarks about Ayodhya Karnad had attributed to him. “In fact, his wife, Nadira, is a Muslim and so is his adopted son. By not letting me quiz him, Karnad imposed censorship, something that he himself vehemently opposes,” Dhondy said[11]. Naipaul was married to English woman Patricia Hale for 41 years, until her death from cancer in 1996. According to an authorised biography by Patrick French, the two shared a close relationship when it came to Naipaul’s work—Pat was a sort of unofficial editor for Naipaul—but the marriage was not a happy one in other respects[12]. Naipaul regularly visited prostitutes in London, and later had a long-term abusive affair with another married woman, Margaret Gooding, which his wife was aware of. Prior to Hale’s death, Naipaul proposed to Nadira Naipaul, a divorced Pakistani journalist, born Nadira Khannum Alvi[13]. They were married two months after Hale’s death, at which point Naipaul also abruptly ended his affair with Gooding. Nadira Naipaul had worked as a journalist for the Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, for ten years before meeting Naipaul. She was divorced twice before her marriage to Naipaul and has two children from a previous marriage, Maliha Naipaul and Nadir[14].

Karnad’s views appeared in Hindusthan Times[15]: His interview appeared clearly proves that he wanted to white-wash the atrocities of the Muslims committed in India. Girish Karnad spoke to HT’s Pankti Mehta on the sidelines of the Literature Live festival in Mumbai, a day after criticising VS Naipaul.

You were supposed to speak about your journey in theatre but criticised Naipaul. Isn’t that misusing the forum you were given?

What would be the point of questioning the award after the festival was over? This was a far more engaging topic. I’m sure the audience was interested. I stand by what I said. And I did speak about theatre in the second part.

 

The organisers gave Naipaul the award for a lifetime of work, including fiction. You critiqued only his non-fiction work about India. Even if we grant that you have a point, how can you judge his work based on just this?

Naipaul himself says that his non-fiction work, particularly about India, is his most important. You can definitely judge a writer by what he thinks is his best work. Even if it weren’t, it wouldn’t matter to me if his outrageous statements were only 10% of his work. As an awarding body, you have to take their implications into account.

 

Was it fair to criticise someone who wasn’t there to defend himself? You  didn’t allow (British writer who is Naipaul’s friend) Farrukh Dhondy to speak at the end.

Even if we had the time, I wouldn’t have opened it to a dialogue, because it was my talk, not anyone else’s. It would have become a tussle between Dhondy and me. Naipaul has said so many things against the Muslims – have they been there to defend themselves when he did?

 

Mr Dhondy says Naipaul never made many of the statements you cited. What are your sources?

I can’t vouch for each word I quoted because I wasn’t there, but this is what has been recorded in articles in newspapers and on the internet. And I only cited stray incidents, while Naipaul has over and over again said in different media that he supports the Babri Masjid demolition. He has also said, in his own writings, that Muslims have destroyed Indian culture. That’s what I have a major problem with.

 

How can Naipaul be anti-Muslim when he is married to a Muslim?

I don’t want to comment on his private life. I’m sure he loves his wife very much. But as I said, he has written and made public statements about how Muslims have destroyed Indian culture. That’s what I see in the open and what I spoke about.

 

Many Indian-origin writers live abroad, so what’s wrong if he comments about this country?

Naipaul hadn’t visited the country for the first 25 years of his life and has never lived in India. He is a foreigner. By the logic of origin, Mr Dhondy is Iranian!

 

V. S . Naipaul at Thinkfest in Goa[16]: Karnad was not there when Naipaul was sitting with a Muslim in Goa! Yes, a day after playwright Girish Karnad accused VS Naipaul of an anti-Muslim bias, Naipaul appeared at the Think fest in Goa alongside Arab poet Adonis. “…Adonis is a great Arab poet. Adonis is a secular poet. In India, this word has a very narrow meaning: it means belonging to one party or another. But for Adonis it is a much bigger idea; he wants to celebrate Mediterranean civilisation,” said Naipaul. After all, the celebrities compromise!

Writers, actors, literary experts want awards, rewards and titles: The simple logic is that writers, actors, literary experts want awards, rewards and titles. If one gets and the other does not get, immediately, jealousy starts working vigorously. So by doing any gimmicks on any platform, if they could prove their loyalties to any vested groups, they do it immediately eyeing for their support. After all, for nomination one has to manipulate and pull strings, as otherwise, even the genuine artist or scholar or writer would not get any honour. Ironically, in some cases one has to nominate himself as “the best” to get award! So he / she cannot feel ashamed of doing so! Some of them aping for honours till date or even after death. There have been many such celebrities dreaming for posthumous awards!

Vedaprakash

07-11-2012


[1] Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad “V. S.” Naipaul, TC is an Trinidadian-British writer of Indo-Trinidadian heritage of Bhumihar Brahmin known for his novels focusing on the legacy of the British Empire’s colonialism.

[4] K.A. Nizami, Aziz Ahmad, S.A.A. Rizvi, Richard M. Eaton, Carl W. Ernst,and others have elaborately dealt with the role of Sufis in the medieval Indian society by imitating Indian cultural methods to attract and convert Hindus. Therefore, such motivated experimentation with entirely different intention cannot be appreciated for their so called syncretism or fusion to create anything new. If that intention had been genuine then, India would not have experienced the acts of Islamic fundamentalism, fanaticism and terrorism through which millions have been killed, lalhs tortured, thousands of temples destroyed, and so on.

[12] Reynolds, Nigel (27 March 2008). “Sir Vidia Naipaul admits his cruelty may have killed wife”The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 27 March 2008.

[14] Balbir K. Punj (21 January 2003). “There was life before Islam”The Asian Age. Retrieved 21 January 2003.

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