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The real story

india Updated: Jan 24, 2012 01:08 IST

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Who needs literature when there are far more potent forms of fiction called lies? Nothing drives home this point more emphatically than the magic realistic project undertaken by Indian authorities to keep British New York-based writer Salman Rushdie away from the Jaipur Literature Festival. It had been quite a challenge for the central government to ensure that Mr Rushdie didn't enter Indian territory after the Darul Uloom Deoband demanded that the author of novels that include Grimus, Midnight's Children, Shame, Shalimar the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence, oh, and The Satanic Verses be barred from participating at the festival and at the same time not look like a total Talibanic fool. With Mr Rushdie's enthusiasts not really forming much of a votebank in the forthcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the task was to find a good reason for the author to decline the invitation to Jaipur rather than to stop him. Which is where the business of "paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld" made its appearance. That, now it seems, is hogwash.

Mr Rushdie is a veteran of being a target thanks to an Iranian fatwa that hung over his head for years. So understandably, he pulled out of the festival when government sources told him that he was being targeted. Also, understandably, he was outraged when he found out that the dangers cited by governmental authorities were always in the creative tricks department.

But one thing that this incident may have unleashed is a new kind of dealing with people who make the Indian State uncomfortable - directly or indirectly through the protestations of a gaggle of people especially from a community thought to be electorally 'precious'. So if the Government of India doesn't want, say, the prime minister of Israel to visit India, it can cite 'hired assassins' lurking behind the bushes. If a non-BJP government in a state wants to keep, say, Narendra Modi away, it, too, can conjure up dangers that may not exist. In fact, we may even see people telling guests who they don't want to see coming to their houses, without seeming rude, that the neighbours are likely to beat the hapless unwanted guests up. In a way, the government has created up a meta-narrative worthy of Rushdie's finest novel. Wonderful!