Salman Rushdie on Friday said he was not coming to India to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival but would address it by videolink. That only cleared part of the smoke that had been shrouding his arrival, since he said in a statement read out in Jaipur by JLF organisers that paid assassins were being sent by the Mumbai underworld to eliminate him, quoting sources in the Maharashtra and Rajasthan intelligence.
Even though the central government denied any such information and Rushdie himself doubted its accuracy, he said in the statement that it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival irresponsible to my family, the festival audience, and to my fellow writers
Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband and other groups objected to Rushdies visit on the grounds that his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, banned in India, had hurt Muslim sentiments. The government had put out an alert to Delhi and Rajasthan that the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) could attack Rushdie.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said, Looking at the aggression among the minority community, we asked the organisers to respect the publics sentiments. I am happy that the issue is resolved.
While Darul termed it a victory for democracy, literary circles called it a stain on Indias international reputation.
In a show of support, authors Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar began reading out of The Satanic Verses at the festival. They were stopped by the organisers but the readings began again, as more writers joined in.
In a press release, the orginsers said, Any action by any delegate or anyone else involved with the festival that in any manner falls foul of the law will not be tolerated.
William Dalrymple, festival co-director said, The whole thing is a great tragedy.
The Congress said Rushdies decision was an individual one. There are no restrictions on this visit, spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said and that intelligence inputs didnt mean the government was trying to stop him.
The BJP blamed the government, saying Congress-ruled Rajasthan should have provided him with security.