Akhtar was in Kolkata to take part in the Kolkata Literary Meet.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Friday, Akhtar said no freedom was absolute. “In any kind of freedom, you are free to do so many things according to the fundamental rights by the constitution, but at the same time your rights should not trample over other people’s rights. There is always a grey area and point of dispute over whether the person has crossed the line of restriction or not,” he said, adding that there were certain no man’s land between restriction and freedom.
“That no-man’s-land is very confusing. If I am not allowed to say anything, fearing that it will displease others, then what is the freedom? And if I am allowed to say just about anything which will displease others, that will also be a problem. So at these moments of controversy, we should rely on the courts,” he said.
Talking about the trouble that the state had anticipated on Rushdie’s arrival, he said that once the court had passed a judgement about a book or a film, the onus lied upon the state government to ensure that sanity prevailed.
“It is the state’s responsibility to see that there is no law and order problem. The onus after that lies on the government that once a book or a film is legally okayed, they should not accept any nonsense. If that is not happening, then we can say the government is not capable enough,” he said.
He also said that the state always played to the right wing. “Anywhere a similar incident happens, the conservative wing’s voice is paid heed to. If the liberal or progressive section does so much hungama, no one will listen to it,” Akhtar said.