In an interview with Laetitia Zecchini, writer and journalist Salil Tripathi says that he always felt passionate about free expression…
He traces this back to his parents, who he says never put any constraints on his reading, except to occasionally suggest that he wait until he was older to read certain volumes.
‘So I always felt that if people want to write, they should be able to write.
‘It’s also very simple and very self-evident that if you don’t like something, don’t read it, don’t buy it, shut the book, or campaign against it, lobby against it, write a counterargument.
‘All those options are available. From a very young age in fact I used to collect books that were banned.’
Fittingly, Tripathi is now chair of International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, which campaigns for those imprisoned because of their writing.
For him the most important thing is to keep bringing these cases to the attention of the public and of the government:
‘At PEN, we have this idea of the empty chair: every time we have an event, we have an empty chair, and we talk about all these writers who are forgotten, as it were and who we must remember.
‘The challenge is that we have to make sure that they remain in the limelight.’
He discusses this role as well as Salman Rushdie, Liu Xiaobo and the future of PEN in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.