As the old liberal cliché goes, the true test of a principle is when you use it to defend somebody or something you do not like. I remind you of the aphorism because of the latest developments in the Taslima Nasreen saga — chiefly her claim that she’s under effective house arrest and her tearful lament about not being allowed to go back to Calcutta.
Am I glad that I no longer edit a magazine or a newspaper? You bet! It isn’t that I mind the work — I quite enjoy the thrill of putting a publication together. My relief stems from something entirely different. I no longer know what rules to apply when it comes to language. There are so many variations of English floating around that it has become almost impossible to decide what is a mistake and what is acceptable usage; what is jargon and what is gibberish.
When it comes to the Gujarat election, nothing is as simple as it seems. Take the BJP, for instance. It is a party in disarray, confounded by the virtual withdrawal of AB Vajpayee from public life, demolished in Uttar Pradesh, at war with itself and desperately in search of a coherent ideology. You would expect that because Gujarat offers the BJP its single best hope of a morale-boosting victory, the party would do everything possible to win the election.
I knew, last week, that I would be expected to write about the Taslima Nasreen controversy. I chose not to for a variety of reasons, the most important of which was exhaustion.
How many times can one make the same points again and again? How many times will readers be expected to read more or less identical liberal-outrage pieces on Taslima, all of which make roughly the same points?