I’ve just been sent this rather mealie mouthed statement, apparently from the Jaipur Literary Festival, in response to a protest by authors Hari Kunzru, Jeet Thayil and others. They read from The Satanic Verses at the festival after Salman Rushdie received death threats.
The statement reads:
“This press release is being issued on behalf of the organizers of the Jaipur Literature Festival. It has come to their attention that certain delegates acted in a manner during their sessions today which were without the prior knowledge or consent of the organizers. Any views expressed or actions taken by these delegates are in no manner endorsed by the Jaipur Literature Festival. Any comments made by the delegates reflect their personal, individual views and are not endorsed by the Festival or attributable to its organizers or anyone acting on their behalf. The Festival organizers are fully committed to ensuring compliance of all prevailing laws and will continue to offer their fullest cooperation to prevent any legal violation of any kind. Any action by any delegate or anyone else involved with the Festival that in any manner falls foul of the law will not be tolerated and all necessary, consequential action will be taken. Our endeavor has always been to provide a platform to foster an exchange of ideas and the love of literature, strictly within the four corners of the law. We remain committed to this objective.”
I will write more on this tomorrow, but I will say for now that the repetition of the need to abide by the law seems a bit tone deaf, given the context – if reading aloud from a literary work “falls foul of the law” then the law is an ass and those who support it are enemies of free expression and literature. It is not too much to ask the organisers of India’s most important literary festival to understand that.