The Centre has asked the Rajasthan and Delhi governments to protect writer Salman Rushdie and not let troublemakers use his upcoming visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival to disturb communal harmony.
The central advisory sent to the two states is based on intelligence reports that Rushdie’s visit has caught the attention of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi).
Intelligence agencies told the government that Simi was closely following the developments about Rushdie’s visit and could put together a team to target him.
“The home ministry has advised the state police to make adequate security arrangements to protect Rushdie from such elements,” a government source said, adding that the arrangements would have to cover all eventualities.
Top Rajasthan Police officials confirmed receiving the advisory and said necessary steps would be taken to provide adequate security to Rushdie. Rajasthan government sources said a room booked for Rushdie at the Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur was cancelled. Hotel officials refused to comment.
The Jaipur Literature Festival is being held from January 20 to 24. While the organisers are standing by their invitation to Rushdie, the writer's itinerary has been pulled off the festival website.
Top Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband had asked the government not to allow Rushdie to enter India, saying his book The Satanic Verses had hurt the sentiments of Muslims. This triggered similar demands from several Islamic groups.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot had on Tuesday expressed fears that Rushdie's visit could become a law and order problem. But the home ministry made clear its reluctance to intervene in the matter.
A firearm attack on Rushdie isn't all that the police have to worry about. Raza Academy, a Mumbai-based group, had this week offered a reward of Rs 1 lakh - and legal help to fight the criminal case - to anyone who hurls “a slipper on Salman Rushdie's face”. A police officer said this threat was more real.
(With inputs from Jaipur)