Salman Rushdie at the India Today Conclave

Sir Salman Rushdie, at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, March 12. He makes extensive comments defending art – and Husain – and in part III, cites from my recent piece which, among other things, defends Husain.

It feels great batting for the right side, being on the right side of this debate, of history.


9 comments on “Salman Rushdie at the India Today Conclave

  1. gdaftrnoon rushdie sir.
    mai apki es baat k bilkul fevour me hu ki kisi bhi person bolne ki azadi ya what he want to do milni chahiye magar apko nhi lgta yha baat dual maintality ka hai aap husian sahab ke fevour me thik hai lekin kya aap bibi fatima ko neked condition me dekhne ki himmat rakhte hai?(may bibi fatima pardon me.) may be possible ki aap modern khayalaat k ho lekin har jagah wo chiz nhi ki jaati jo aap krna chate hai .dusro ki wishes ki bhi respect krni chahiye aap agar samjhte hai ki mohammad sahab ka cartoon bnne pr ya hanumanji ko naked krna art expressino hai to mai apko bta du ki aap ya phir aur koi vulger maintality ke shikar hai .khuda ke liye adab rakhiye chay bo ram k rup me ho ya rahim k. ho skta hai mere thoughts buddhjivio k palle na pade mai chata bhi nhi ki aisa ho pr mai apni baat krna chata tha or uska mujhe haq hai or mai samajhta hu esse kisi ki feelings hert nhi hoti. mr. rusdie ye hai azadi.

    • salil61 says:


      Your question is addressed to Mr Rushdie and he is unlikely to read this blog or respond to your question. But reading your question it seems to me you may not be familiar with Mr Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses. If you read that, you will notice that he has consistently supported free speech everywhere. In my personal view, MF Husain has the right to paint whatever he wants; he does not have to paint to suit the desires of others, unless he wishes to do so. I disagree with you that other people’s wishes have to be respected. They should then respect the wishes of people like Mr Husain. And the best way to show such respect is to let each of us be. Of course you have the right to speak (as you have done on this blog). But nobody’s feelings should be considered so sacrosanct that others must not talk of things that hurt them. Whether or not to say certain things should be an individual’s choice; you have the option of not listening. Thanks; Salil

      • salil,
        i am not just talking about m f hussen sahab or rushdie sir or bala sahab thakre. suppose that a person is abusing you And making comment on your family ,on what limit you can tolerate? he is abusing you And according to you he deserv for it And you would not like to lisitin him?.we must follow follow the law And order of a country in which we live. hussen sir’s act was excited the religious feeling. or indian constitution k anusar kisi bhi trah ki religion against activity galat hai. chahe wo varun gandhi ka lecture ho ya hussen sahab ji paintings. reply soon i am waiting
        thanks. ashish

  2. Salil Tripathi says:


    If someone abuses me or my family, I will ignore him. In fact, I have done that often enough. There are more important things to do in life than worrying about those who abuse you. And once you ignore them, the issue of tolerance doesn’t apply – they can do what they want to let off their steam.

    If the Indian constitution says it is wrong to criticise a religion, then that aspect of the constitution is wrong. Religion is an idea – and any idea can be criticised.



  3. prashant says:

    Hi Salil,
    Was going through this blog and thought of sharing my inputs also.Freedom of Speech is itself something which is subjective , same lies with Freedom of Expression. Coming back to MF Hussain , Well he is an Artist , He can Paint whatever he wants but he cannot paint anything which hurts me or anyone else for the matter , Because Freedom of Speech or Expression says you are free to talk or do whatever you want to until and unless you hurt someone.Know consider this you must have heard of Draw Muhammad day , People drawing cartoon of Mohammad , How you take it. Do you think it is right. Well The very fiber of a Society lies on some basic principles …
    1. You need to adjust as per the wish of others, Its not choice its Mandatory .
    2. Freedom itself is very thin line never try to cross it.
    3. Think from your own mind rather than agreeing on something which someone , generally a moron like Pandit , Khalifs , Immams and Father tells you.

  4. salil61 says:

    Prashant, thanks for writing.

    Some thoughts and reactions:

    Freedom of Speech is an absolute right, and it is not subjective. The same paplies to freedom of expression. With regard to any artist’s freedom. Surely you aren’t expecting the artist to constantly guess how you – or any other viewer – might respond to his or her art each time he or she paints. If that weer the norm, he’d never be able to paint anything, because what hurts you may not hurt me, and what hurts me, may not hurt you.

    That hurt is not physical – laws restraining physical violence are entirely reasonable; but when someone says someone else’s words hurt him, it is impossible to frame a law that can take into account such eventualities, because people’s tastes and tolerance limits vary.

    As for the “Draw Mohammed Day:” I think it is a silly exercise, but I would not necessarily ban it. People have the choice not to visit that page on the Internet, not to see those paintings, etc. Those images are not being thrust upon other people; the same applies to the paintings Husain does. Nobody is being forced to see them.

    Therefore, I do not think you can adjust as per the wish of others – who are those “others”?

    Thanks again for writing, and best wishes;


  5. Ananth says:


    “Guess how a viewer would react”? Surely, you are not suggesting MF somehow imagined the Indian populace would be enamored by having people feast on a naked figure of Bharat Mata, their mother?

    I don’t see the ‘guess’ part. That he would be hurting millions of Indians with his painting would, I would say, have been pretty obvious to MF right from the time when he put brush to canvas.

    • salil61 says:


      Sorry it took so long for your comment to appear. Somehow, the “alert” service did not notify me that you had commented.

      I can’t imagine what MF Husain imagined when he painted what he painted. Imagination in any case gets curtailed, if painters have to start thinking about how hypersensitive viewers might react to their work.

      I’m not entirely sure if his paintings hurt millions – that’s your opinion – I know many Hindus who haven’t felt offended by Husain’s art; I know many Hindus who love his work; I know many Hindus who don’t care for his work; I know many vocal Hindus, particularly on the Internet, who seem to think it is the single-biggest problem facing Indian civilisation. In a free society, it is obvious there will be many such views. Husain is not expected to cater to each opinion; he is supposed to paint whatever he feels inspired by.

      Thanks for writing;


  6. […] Salman Rushdie at the India Today Conclave March 20108 comments 4 […]

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