Last year around this time I described how the Jaipur Literature Festival was a festival of the politically correct sissies. I should’ve also mentioned in that piece that it was just one step away from the next logical stage it would reach: from being politically correct to being political.
Because that’s what it’s turned out to be this year: barely three or four days, and all we’ve been hearing about is the slugfests emerging from that annual festivity by, of and for the sissies. We wonder whatever happened to that very word, indeed the raison de être upon which the festival is premised: LITERATURE. It resembles our Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas except that crass politicians are substituted by taxpayer-money-sucking leeches who call themselves writers, poets and littérateurs.
Two exhibits will suffice to illustrate the point. Unlike last year, I won’t go into the topics selected for this year and the list of the so-called littérateurs.
Exhibit 1: Ashis Nandy, the psychoanalyst who should’ve subjected himself to psychoanalysis several decades ago. As we see, the old boy hasn’t changed one bit. After he’d milked the Gujarat riots and Narendra Modi and Gujarati Hindus for all they were worth, Nandy has now targeted SC, ST and OBC people.
It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBC, SC and ST communities and as long as it remains, Indian republic will survive,”
If his shameless racism isn’t enough, doesn’t Nandy know that hurling casteist abuses will earn him jail time? And what does this tell you about the White Mughal lording over this farcical festival who courted this racist psychoanalyst? Also, what exactly are Nandy’s literary qualifications to (dis)grace a Pontificatory role? We don’t know what prompted him to make political statements in a literature festival.
So there we have: Score 1 on the Festival of the Political Sissies. Rest of India: 0.
Exhibit 2: Javed Akhtar and Kancha Ilaiah. This episode resembles two canines tearing at each other fighting for the Most Rabid crown. The good news: they’re equals.
Illaiah, who was expounding on the equality of the two sexes that Buddhism provided to its followers, was confronted by Akhtar who, speaking as an atheist, said that no religion gave equality to women and weaker sections and choosing one’s religion was in fact a bit like “choosing which cave one wanted to live in.”
“Discussing religion was like discussing which cave will be better to live. If you want to follow a religion, follow any religion. It does not matter. If you have decided to commit suicide, does it matter how you do it?,” he said, to a round of applause from the audience, who were at a panel titled, ‘God as a political philosopher: Dalit perspectives on Buddhism.’
The bad news: both of them are terrible in their own right. Kancha Ilaiah is no stranger to my blog. He’s a cultural parasite, and that’s being charitable to him. But he’s primarily a hate monger who possesses neither the intelligence nor the erudition to carry out his campaign of Hindu hatred with dignity much less class. And it’s only fitting that an equally hate monger called Javed Akhtar took him on. Except that Akhtar hides his Hindu hatred under the cloak of a carefully nurtured taqqiya. The best example of his taqqiya is right above: he calls himself an atheist but in his Bollywood heydays, the Islamic 786 and similar symbolism figured prominently in major hit films of Amitabh Bachchan.
But here, he picked the wrong guy, the wrong wronged caste that Kancha claims that he champions. In the grand scheme of things, the Dalit discourse in India today trumps over even the minority discourse. Next time there’s a requirement to write something on the plight of the poor victimised Muslims in India, Kancha will first scan if the name “Javed Akhtar” exists.
But I digress. So what place does a paper like ‘God as a political philosopher: Dalit perspectives on Buddhism’ have in a literature festival? The answer to that lies in the evil genius of William Dalrymple.
A survey from last year to this shows how well this White Mughal has perfected the Art of Milking Division. An art that the Brits employed on us with such aplomb. Here’s a nation splintered into a million divisions: Brahmins VERSUS the rest, OBCs vs Dalits, Hindus vs Muslims, Hindus vs Christians, “Good” Hindus vs “rabid” Hindutva guys, Urban Hindus vs Orthodox Hindus, etc. Dalrymple simply gave an annual platform to these voices which thrive and seek to perpetuate these divisions in whatever name: novel, poetry, drama, etc for whatever reason. BUTBtheres a red line which is Not to be Crossed: NO criticism of Islam. Which last year translated to the hypocrisy around Rushdie. Which simply means Literary Secularism.
But like I said, this year they’ve descended a step lower.
In a different, but related discussion named ‘Heaven on Earth: On Sharia Law’ Muslim writer and activist Asghar Ali Engineer spoke on how Sharia was a dynamic socio-cultural requirement. “I’m a strong defender and fighter of Sharia because it has got a lot of human elements in it that society urgently needs,” he said.
In other words: Sharia in literature.
A small but highly significant step in the project of establishing the Islamic Republic of India. William Dalrymple would be long dead when that actually happens but for now, he’s one of the bricks that history will record as being instrumental in building that republic.