Are you Spending your Life Abusing Others Girish Karnad?

Note: This is a translation of Pratap Simha’s piece that appeared in today’s Kannada Prabha. Girish Karnad image courtesy: IBN Live. 


The Mumbai Lit fest on Friday witnessed major drama when veteran actor and theatre artist Girish Karnad slammed Nobel prize laureate VS Naipaul and called him anti-Muslim. Karnad, who was present at the lit-fest on Friday to conduct a class on theatre, spoke at length about Naipaul.

The first paragraph of CNN-IBN’s news report makes it clear that the purpose of Girish Karnad attending the Mumbai Literature Live! festival was entirely different. Had he been invited to take a class on theatre or had he been presented with a platform to abuse Naipaul? If Literature Live! gave Naipaul the Lifetime Achievement Award, what exactly pricked Girish Karnad’s heart?

It’s true, as Karnad says, Naipaul has written three books about India.

…but what strikes one from the very first book, A Wounded Civilization, is their rabid antipathy to the Indian Muslim. The “wound” in the title is the one inflicted on India by Babar’s invasion. Since then, Naipaul has never missed a chance to accuse them of having savaged India for five centuries, brought, among other dreadful things, poverty into it, and destroyed glorious Indian culture.

What exactly has happened to Karnad? And what’s incorrect in what Naipaul has written? History tells us that just as the Romans destroyed the Persian civilization, the Christians the Greek civilization, the Ghazni-Ghori-Tughlaq-Mughal combination savaged that of India. Did Babar come to redeem or uplift India? If that was really his intent, why didn’t he start with redeeming his home country, Uzbekistan? How does a factual criticism of the deeds of an alien invader morph into antipathy of Indian Muslims? If Karnad’s reasoning is that those criticizing Muslims shouldn’t be given awards, didn’t Dr. B.R. Ambedkar talk about the Muslim mindset in his Thoughts on Pakistan? Does Karnad imply that he shouldn’t have been awarded the Bharat Ratna?

Further, Karnad quotes Naipaul who brushes off Romila Thapar’s statement that the Taj Mahal was an expression of the “rich efflorescence of the mixture of Hindu and Muslim styles, by attributing her judgment to her Marxist bias” and that the Taj, according to Naipaul was actually a symbol of the invaders’ atrocity. What’s wrong with Naipaul’s statement? Doesn’t the Mughal Empire have a history of atrocities? Mr. Karnad, who was Aurangzeb? Wasn’t he too a Mughal emperor? Is his firmaan of 1669 ordering the demolition of the Vishwanath temple at Varanasi a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity or that of atrocity? Mr. Jnanapith, what spin would you give to the extortionate Jaziya tax he levied exclusively on the Hindus?

Karnad then says that “[A] point that strikes one immediately about these books is that there is not a single word in any of these books on Indian music. And I believe that if you cannot respond to music, you cannot understand India. Music is the defining art form of the Indian identity. Naipaul’s silence on the subject when he is exploring the whole of modern Indian culture proves to me that he is tone deaf…” Let’s put this same question to Girish Karnad. Naipaul wasn’t born in India and didn’t live here. He tried to understand India by travelling through the land. But Mr. Jnanapith, you who were born here, you who have written in Kannada, an Indian language, in which play have you written about sculpture, a vital aspect of Indian culture?

The history of India is more truly reflected in her sculpture than in any (history) book. Mr. Karnad you question Naipaul over music but where have you written about Indian sculpture in any of your work? How can those who don’t understand Indian sculpture claim to understand India? Additionally, in which work of yours have you written about the Vedas which are so intricately, inseparably woven into Indian culture and ethos? If you think these questions are irrelevant, your claim that Naipaul hasn’t written about Indian music is equally irrelevant. Because he hasn’t written about music, it doesn’t mean Naipaul hasn’t understood it. Is there a rule which says that one needs to write about everything one has understood?

Let’s cut back to 2008. Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari had ordered all pubs to shut down music and down their shutters by 11 P.M in the wake of the terror attack in Bangalore. Recall how you had gone to town with a protest? Recall what you had thundered back then: is it a crime to listen to music in pubs? Where should those who work till late in the night go and relax if not to pubs? I hope you haven’t forgotten this Mr. Karnad. Tell us Mr. Karnad, which pub plays Indian classical or Sufi or Bhakti music? If pub music is Indian music according to you, then isn’t a Trinidad-born-and-raised Naipaul more knowledgeable in music compared to you?

Also, Mr. Karnad, you question Naipaul’s knowledge of Indian culture on the basis of music—so, to what extent have you been faithful to the same Indian culture?

This may be personal but this is something you yourself have written in your autobiography, Aadaadta Aayusha. You dated for about 17 years before marrying the woman who’s now your wife. In that period, as you mention, you both had an agreement which said that each partner was free to do “whatever” he/she wants, and that there was no restraint of any sort. What exactly is the hidden meaning of this agreement sir? You’ve also written about your stint at Oxford University Press in Madras where a certain married woman used to visit your room every afternoon at lunch time. What part of this behaviour, what part of this lifestyle can be termed Indian culture? What even gives you the moral authority to talk about Indian culture? Your play Anju Mallige deals with incest between brother and sister. Incest is which part of Indian culture, Mr. Karnad? Given all this, does Naipaul need to take music lessons from a person like you, Mr. Karnad?

It’s true that Naipaul wasn’t born in India. But he came to here on a quest to learn everything about the land of his forefathers. His books about India are more in the nature of a travelogue. He wrote about this country as he grasped it. He has said that Muslims have an intolerant streak that shows up in whichever nation they migrate to. What’s wrong with this? Haven’t we as a nation experienced this for hundreds of years?

Nietzsche’s quote that “the higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly” applies to you perfectly. Because you cannot ascend to Naipaul’s stature, he appears small to you. You’re just an opportunistic politician in the garb of a litterateur and dramatist. When the then Higher Education Minister D.H. Shankara Murthy (correctly) claimed that Tipu Sultan was anti-Kannada, you went hammer and tongs against him with a raucous defence of Tipu. When eminent writer and novelist Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa tore into your Tipu-defence line by line, what did you do?  You characterized Bhyrappa’s Vamshavruksha and Tabbaliyu Neenaade Magane as crappy works, you said you regretted directing those two works (these novels were made into movies directed by Karnad). When you were nothing you needed these books to fetch you fame. Now, after you got the Jnanapith, they suddenly became crappy? When this selfsame Naipaul won the Nobel, you had claimed that he was the “greatest living litterateur of Indian origin.” And now he suddenly appears anti-Muslim to you? Isn’t this attitude a reflection of your own mind’s Heap of Broken Images? (Ed: Heap of Broken Images is the name of Karnad’s play in the original Kannada entitled Odakalu Bimba, which was also translated into Hindi as Bikhre Bimb).

Perhaps Anil Dharker, the organizer of Literature Live! accurately understood this attitude of yours and remarked that “We gave you (Karnad) the chance to speak about your life in theatre, but you never spoke about it. Instead, you chose to go on about a writer who has won the Nobel Prize for literature.”

As for your Kannada—ever heard what Kannada-speaking folks in the Hubli-Dharward region say about your works? They say that Karnad’s Kannada needs to be translated to Kannada and laugh loudly. Keerthinatha Kurtakoti faithfully did this translation as long as he was alive. You wrote pretty much nothing after he passed away.

Please stop your publicity-seeking drama, Mr. Karnad. Or come to a face-to-face debate. Stop indulging in spit and run tactics. Enough of spending your life accusing other people.

21 comments for “Are you Spending your Life Abusing Others Girish Karnad?

  1. Santosh Rao
    November 13, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Well said. Perfectly worded on the mentally ill Girish Nobody Karnad.

  2. jetlag
    November 12, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Don’t blame the moron. He just wants a kangress rajyasabhha seat.

  3. Akilesh Yadav
    November 12, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Girish Karnad was self serving megalomaniac. You can’t cure these kind of men, seeking cheap publicity at others cost., Leave him alone may he rot in his own hell of delusion.

  4. SCC
    November 11, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Every time I read English newspapers, it makes my blood boil. I went to the Hindu website and all I found was fawning letters to the editor in response to Hasan’s poorly written and deceitful article as had been mentioned by SB. The whole system has been infiltrated by these pseudosecularist and is now run by the corrupt for the corrupt. The country has been run right from its Independence by people who were part of the fifth column. These people have been injecting and propagating their alien ideas and thoughts in to our society in the same manner as opium was injected in the Chinese society by the british. Just a day or two back, an article in ToI was discussing if use of marijuna could be legalised. The print media, tv networks, Universities, NGO’s, eminent personalities, cultural organisations and bureaucrats have been allowed to run amock as part of the larger gameplan to dumb and numb down our senses so that our minds are deluded when the slaughter starts. These people have left no stone unturned to undermine the country’s historical, cultural and religious traditions.
    The lies and the mission of these these people and their organisation have to be countered at all forums. A start can be made by refering this blog to more and more friends and acquaintances.
    Keep up the good work Sandeep. May a lakh Sandeep bloom so that your spark can in turn light up the flames which will burn down this system which is no better than Ravana’s Lanka.

  5. SP
    November 9, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    Crappy Newspapers like TH, HT, ToI, Tehelka, IE, TT are owned by, as I understand, by Sultans and Sheiks. Islamisation of SE Asia, including India, is their mission and these crappy newspapers and MSM like NDTV, IBN CNN, ABP, HT are their tools.

  6. SB
    November 8, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    ” … could you rip this liar apart on the Hindu itself.”

    I would love to see someone calling the bluff of people like Mushirul Hassan but The Hindu won’t publish it. Take my word for it.

    They look for and publish fawning appreciation of their editorial line only.

  7. SB
    November 8, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    ” … you people digest that ”
    should be read as :
    ” … you people CANNOT digest that “

  8. SB
    November 8, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    I read with a sense of anguish the piece by Mushirul Hassan at the Hindu. Though by now, one shouldn’t come to expect no better from that crypto Marxist rag.

    When one reads worthless worthies like Mushirul Hassan, one gets an idea on how to write so much without saying anything at all.

    In my own limited way, let me give a response to Hassan’s article:
    Hassan starts by saying:

    “To Naipaul, Hindu militancy is a corrective to the past. …”

    Interesting choice of words to begin with, Mr. Hassan. To get the readers immediately riled up and shut their minds as they read the rest of your filth.

    In the next para, we read:

    “Naipaul too warns readers of Islamic ‘parasitism,’ and endorses the Orientalist belief that Islam as a coherent, transnational, monolithic force has been engaged in a unilinear confrontational relationship with the West. His essentialist reading of history allows him to sustain the myth of an inherent hostility between two antagonistic sides.”

    Our worthy seems to have taken out all his arsenal of magic words all too soon and too close.
    “Orientalist”, “essentialist”, “monolithic” …

    Oh, where is that mandatory reference to Edward Said … ? Don’t be disappointed, it’s there in the final para.

    Hasan and his types play the role of obscurantists. Moment anyone brings up the dark legacy of Islam and how the same ideology propels fanatic Muslims today, these people throw sand in the eyes of their critics by telling them how Muslims are not a “monolithic” entity. Yes, Mr. Hassan, I totally agree, the food that Taliban fighters eat is different from the staple food of Boko Haram in Nigeria and therefore we should sing paeans to Muslim diversity.

    “…but I have no doubt in my mind that he is ignorant of the nuances of Islam”

    Kindly educate us as to what these nuances are, dear sir. Is it the obscure differences in your schools of jurisprudence ? Maybe we Hindus lack the gratitude towards your Sha’afi (I forget which) school that you would only permit the Muslim tax collector to spit inside our mouths if we didn’t pay the requisite Jizya as opposed to the Hanbali school which believed that death and only death is the answer to the impudence of the Kaafir.

    “Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey is permeated with the sentiment that Islam sanctifies rage — rage about faith, political rage, and that Muslim societies are rigid, authoritarian, uncreative, and hostile to the West.”

    Daniel Pipes called “Among the Believers” one of the best books to understand the Muslim mindset. Ali Sina (of has rightly said that Islam flourishes best where they have a tangible object of hatred. The rage of Muslims is the only way they can maintain their faith. The origin of this world view is the internalization of the hatred that Mohammed felt towards the residents of Medina who didn’t believe (quite rightly) that he was a “prophet”.

    Now, Mr. Hassan gets into pastures he is more familiar with :
    (with reference to Naipaul’s works:)
    “…there is hardly any reference to the debilitating legacy of colonial rule.”

    Ah, those nasty Britishers spoiled the game, didn’t they ? Forgive my limited knowledge Mr. Hassan, but “debilitating legacy of colonial rule” isn’t what determines the mindset and attitudes an entire group of people from Morocco to Philippines, and in each and every one of these places, the blood of infidels spilled by Jihad is a living reality.

    The next lines are a gem:

    “Two years after A Million Mutinies, Naipaul defends the destruction of the Babri Masjid by calling it “an act of historical balancing.” “Ayodhya,” he reportedly told a small gathering at the BJP office in 2004, “was a sort of passion … Any passion has to be encouraged. I always support actions coming out of passion as these reflect creativity.” Whose passion? Of those Muslims who, despite the bitterness since December 1992, still weave the garlands used in the temple and produce everything necessary for dressing the icons preparatory to worship?”

    This kind of line will need a whole essay by itself to uncover the layers of duplicity and passive aggressive veiled threat .. (“see we Muslims despite our bitterness are controlling ourselves ..”).. Owaisi saab of Hyderabad must be taking tutorials from your, dear Hassan miyan !

    Hassan ends with this line:
    “If ever Naipaul wants to write a travelogue on Muslim countries, the sense of Islam as something more than words in texts, as something living in individual Muslims, must emerge from his pen.”

    Actually Naipaul has just done did that, Mr. Hassan. It’s just that, anytime someone says something remotely critical of Islam, you people digest that without accusing the author of some congenital thinking defect. Naipaul’s “Among the believers” and “Beyond Belief” chronicle the lived experience of Muslims rather than Qur’an or Hadith commentary.

    However, Mr. Hassan, if you are looking for books which does see the Islam inspired from words in texts, (which is highly valuable too), I highly recommend the books by Robert Spencer “The politically Incorrect guide to Islam and the Crusades” and “The truth about Muhammed” .

    Please Hassan miyaan, we are too familiar and too tired of your tricks. Please hold your “durbaar” among your esteemed circle of enlightened farts among whom Girish Karnad will occupy a high place.

  9. SCC
    November 7, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    Somemore lies being peddled on the same issue by Mushirul Hasan using the most anti hindu paper. Mushirul does not bother to substantiate his argument against Naipul. As per him, the backwardness of the present day muslims is due to colonialism. 100 years of a fairly secular colonialism did a great harm to rabidly Muslim countries, whereas 1000 years of Muslim colonialism was a period of great awakening for the Jahil Hindus. What do people such as Mushirul, Girish Karnad eat, breathe and pray too that they can lie and spread falsehood without any guilt. It’s a shame that they have been provided the best of platforms in India so that they can undermine the nation from within. Dear Sandeep, if you have the time, could you rip this lier apart on the Hindu itself. Would love to read it.

  10. November 7, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    Good one… Karnad’s arguments were childish…

  11. Ashish Raje
    November 7, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Girish Karnad is oblivious to the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate).

  12. Vasantha
    November 7, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Girish Karnad is a shameless.
    Congress party workers are shameless.
    Now this implies he can now join and continue to remain shameless.

  13. CC
    November 7, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    This is the memory I have of this Girish Karnad character. He stood around smoking in the presence of young middle school kids in one of the open parks near the Bangalore High Court building during some open-air theater event… nearly two decades ago. When one or two students recognized him and asked him for autographs, he appeared irritated and impatiently waved us away..

  14. Sunil
    November 7, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    This was a posting by gajanan in to Karnads outburst.

    Playwright and Jnanpeeth Award winner Girish Karnad Sunday joined a protest here against ban on live music and dance in the famed pubs and discos of India’s IT hub.A group of about 100 people – regular disco-goers, singers, disc jockeys – carried placards saying “Give us ourfreedom”, “Bengaluru bleeding” and “Don’t kill creativity”, and protested the ban imposed by the police on Aug 3.

    “It is tyranny of the police. It is against every artiste,” Karnad said at the protest. The police order says live music performances are not allowed in pubs and discos. However, recorded music can be played.The police justify their decision saying they are following rules which prohibit live music and dance in any public place serving liquor.There is also controversy over the closing timings of pubs and restaurants. A 1976 order had set the 11.30 p.m. deadline for business establishments but this was relaxed in 1987 to allow medical shops, hotels and some other establishments to remain open much later than that.

    This report is interesting and when you examine Karnads comments ”

    “This is one problem with Mr Naipaul’s analysis of Indian culture. He has no music and therefore no conception of what the Muslims contributed to our history. His concept of what the Muslims did in Indian history clearly shows that he has no idea of what at least the music did. Now, not having music — not having an ear for music deprives him of another chapter in his book really, if I might put it that way.

    This explains his insensitivity to the intricate interweaving of Hindu and Muslim creativities, through the Bhakti and Sufi movements, that gave us this extraordinary heritage, alive in the heart of every Indian home”

    Karnads protest against pub culture above and his accusation that Naipaul being tone deaf to music requires some Orwell – Asimovian imagination. Just imagine Karnad entering into the same pub in Mangalore with tanpura , tabla , harmonium and jablakatti and trying to sing the famous Baiju Bawra song ” Man Tadpatu , Tadpatu Hari ke Dwar” in bhakti sufiana andaz. I leave it to the readers imagination the consequences of this Karnadian zeal for Bhakti and Sifi music in a pub. Let us stretch our imagination further. Naipaul enters the same pub with his Muslim wife and the two step muslim children and finds Girish Karnad and tabalchis having an arguement on his insistence of singing the Baiju Bawra song in Bhakti Sufiana Andaz. There is absolute chaos in the pub. Naipaul is just smiling and his wife who knows a spattering Bollywood songs, shouts ” Khamosh , Yeh Bharat Hai ya Rome”

    There is pin drop silence in the Mangalore pub. Karnad looks at Naipauls wife and then looks at the pub band and walks out with his Bhakti Sufiana party. Naipaul is silent , takes some notes and leaves the pub with his wife and step kids. Yes , Naipaul has material to write his next novel titled ” The Wounding of Bhakti -Sufi Music in an Indian pub “

  15. dipak
    November 6, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    why India was ruled by foreigners because our next door neighbor like as Girish karnad living with us. And their are Plenty of Girish Karnad like people present around us who always think him or her self first instead of India/Bharat first.

  16. Sri Aiyer Raju Sreenivasan
    November 6, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    I can understand his hatred for being a Hindu because it has fetched him no recognition in spite of his being so much a supporter of anti-Hindus. [I discount his Jnanapita award as he owes its success to Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa’s literary creation]. Perhaps he should try embracing Islam or Christianity and see if it helps him. Who knows, it may bring him accolades as being truly secular. Girish Karnad comes out from his shell almost everytime you have a state election in Karnataka or general elections. He comes out with rabid nonsense against the Hindus. If he is alive he will do this in 2014 as well. Better he should migrate to Pakistan and see if it fetches him peace.

  17. November 6, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Are you Spending your Life Abusing Others Girish Karnad? The title is so apt, you have to just replace the name at the end and it works well for a legion of literatii. And what appears under the title is illuminating and disturbing at the same time. For example…the comment by ‘vikatkavi’ above. This is the typical case of ‘inability to digest even semblence of success’. Has GK produced any earth-shattering until now, be it his plays or his acting? He is a typical snob who is famous for unknown resaons. And look at his public postures and behaviour. It is utterly unfortunate and uncalled for fiasco by GK…only for grabbing attention. Regards – K R Vaishampayan

  18. November 6, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    Anil Dharkar should have prevented Karnad from deviating from the subject allotted. It seems Dharkar gave a long handle to beat. I wonder if it was a clever political arrangement of the two..

  19. Sreeram
    November 6, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Loved this article:):)
    I wanted to compliment the writer of this piece. Very well put:):)

  20. Chandra
    November 6, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    What a time we live in. Drunkard ‘papatma’ are epitom of something in our society? Seriously, I am losing faith in any ideology or concepts which came out of Independence movement. We are much better off without so called independence where such people rule the roost. God help India.from such people who are fake, hypocrite and ‘Dusht’ in their nature. Always looking out to hurt others.

  21. vikatkavi
    November 6, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    On a personal front, Girish Karnad is a drunkard and a womaniser. He is jealous by his nature. He is jealous that a person who has feelings of a Hindu could get a Nobel Prize. That’s his personality trait. He believes no one recognises him or supports his ideas even when he is pro Muslim. For him supporting Hindu values and culture is anti Indian. His comments recently are his political aspirations. He wants to get an entry to Congress.

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