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India becoming prone to intolerance of freedom: Rushdie

New York: India-born controversial author Salman Rushdie has turned his ire against his home country, saying that creative works of artists are increasingly being assaulted by religious groups.

India has become "very prone" to the idea that "you should not rock the boat," he said, in an expression of concern over what he called the growing intolerance to freedom of expression in the country.

Rushdie, who has been at the receiving end of various groups for years targetting his works, said the atmosphere of openness in India is now being replaced "to some degree by the rise of religious sectarianism and by the craven response of the authorities" to protests by certain religious groups.

"India was a society in which for a long time ideas of free expression were very entrenched. When independence came, there was an atmosphere of openness. I have the terrible feeling that things are going the other way (now)," he said during a question and answer session at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature here.

He had delivered the `Freedom to Write` lecture at the annual festival`s closing day yesterday where he spoke about the faces of censorship in contemporary society and author`s role within a climate of forced silence and intolerance.

The Booker Prize winning novelist cited the example of Rohinton Mistry`s novel `Such a long Journey` and scholar A K Ramanujan`s essay `Three hundred Ramayanas` being removed from the syllabus in Indian universities respectively after political and religious sections deemed them to be offensive.

He said painter M F Hussain was "hounded out of India" as his series of paintings of Hindu goddess Sarawasti in the nude were considered to be "pornographic." "This is happening more and more and more (in India). Works of scholarship are being assaulted by this or that religious group and are immediately banned and the onus of the blame falls on the artists. India has become very prone to the idea that you should not rock the boat," he said.

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