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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

Despite controversy, govt says won't stop Rushdie

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 10, 2012
First Published: 21:12 IST(10/1/2012) | Last Updated: 00:12 IST(11/1/2012)

The government would not prevent Mumbai-born controversial author Salman Rushdie from travelling to the country to attend the Jaipur literary festival, sources said on Tuesday, brushing aside demands from Darul-Uloom Deoband to cancel his visa.

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Rushdie had reacted to demands for cancelling his visa on Tuesday, putting out a message on micro-blogging site, Twitter, "Re: my Indian visit, for the record, I don't need a visa."

Government sources explained the Mumbai-born Rushdie held a Persons of Indian Origin card that entitles holders to travel to the country of their origin without other documentation.

"Anyone who holds a valid document can travel to India. And at this stage we have nothing more to say," a senior government official said.

"He had travelled to India in the past… We have never stopped him and have no intention to do so in the future also," another official added.

Rushdie had earned the wrath of Muslims due to the alleged blasphemous content in his novel "The Satanic Verses" published in 1988.

In Uttar Pradesh where assembly elections begin next month and Muslims account for a fifth of the state's population, political parties have rushed to make the most of the controversy.

SP's Shahid Siddiqui promptly criticised the government for its "double standards" for giving travel documents to Rushdie and creating conditions to keep the late painter MF Husain out of the country.

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said it was for the government, not the party, to decide on such issues but balanced the remarks with an advice. "No one should play with religious sentiments of anyone".

The BJP too kept up its attack on the Congress, saying the party first proposed this idea by inviting Rushdie for the literary festival and for political reasons, it wants to dispose him.

The newly-inducted Congress working committee member Rasheed Masood said on Monday called for cancellation of the Jaipur fest. "In view of the UP assembly election, the entry could generate reaction," he had said.

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