Author Salman Rushdie's visit to India to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival is clouded in uncertainty even as Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said his trip might lead to security problems.
While the organisers say they stand by their invitation to the 'Midnight's Children' author, Gehlot has made it plain to home minister P Chidambaram that his visit is being resented by the local people.
Gehlot met Chidambaram in New Delhi on Tuesday and discussed this issue, among other things, telling the home minister that the people of Rajasthan "do not want" Rushdie to come and had made representations to the state government about their feelings.
"I don't have any official information about whether Rushdie is coming or not. There is no official communication to us... There is a reaction among the locals, they don't want Salman to come," Gehlot told reporters after the meeting.
Gehlot said his chief secretary was in touch with the organisers of the literature festival which will start from January 20 to 25.
"No state government will want a law and order situation. I have informed the Centre about the prevailing sentiments," Gehlot said.
The announcement of Rushdie's visit to the popular festival had invited the wrath of India's top Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband, which appealed to the government to decline the author a visa as he had hurt sentiments of Muslims in the past.
Following this, Rushdie had taken to micro-blogging site Twitter to say that he did not require a visa to visit India.
Responding to questions in New Delhi, Gehlot also added that Rushdie was a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and the government cannot prevent him from coming to India. Nor can it offer any advice to the organisers.
But, the sentiments of the people have to be kept in mind, Gehlot said in no uncertain terms.
"At the same time the festival is a very popular one and known across the world. The organisers too wouldn't want law and order situation which will spoil the festival," he said.
The festival organisers were ambigious in a statement issued today.
"Salman Rushdie will not be in India on 20th Jan due to a change in his schedule. The festival stands by its invitation to Mr Rushdie," festival producer Sanjoy K Roy said.
While the schedule at the JLF website has been altered with no references to Rushdie's sessions, the author is still listed among the list of speakers.
Rushdie was earlier scheduled to speak on January 20, 21, and 22 in different sessions.
The author had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to the alleged blasphemous content in his novel "The Satanic Verses" which was published in 1988.
The novel, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on February 14, 1989.