|Javed Akhtar (source)|
Here's a story in India Today, Javed Akhtar and Kancha Illaiah spar on gender equality in religion in Jaipur Lit Fest.
The Jaipur Literary Festival is Asia's biggest literary festival and the author speaker list is truly phenomenal looking. It has included Salmon Rushdie in previous years but he has apparently had to cancel this year. Rumour has it it's because of death threats.
There was a bit of a spat at the festival yesterday between Dalit* activist and writer Kancha Illaiah and Bollywood lyricist and scriptwriter Javed Akhtar.
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.'Wow. Perhaps I should watch a some more Bollywood!
The argument continued with each firing their own separate volleys later on in the day (Times of India).
Akhtar, who was to address the next session, then took the stage and said: "All religious values should be based on justice and equality."
Ilaiah told IANS later: "What he said was bad. He can be an atheist but the rest of world cannot be atheist."
"All (Bollywood) superstars are superstitious," he added.
Akhtar countered: "If you watch cinema, it tells you a lot about life. Indians worship films."
*The caste system in India is a truly sad situation. The Dalits are the lowest caste - the untouchables. It's made even more profoundly tragic because many are attempting to cast off the shackles of this system by leaving Hinduism and embracing other religions like Christianity and, in this case, Buddhism. I think that's what Javed is getting at here: Same tragedy but different victim - women.