Suspense continues over Rushdie’s Jaipur visit

Jaipur : Speculation continued over the visit of controversial writer Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literature Festival, with representatives of some Muslim organisations Thursday meeting the organisers and asking them to cancel his appearance at the event.

Sources said that in a meeting suggested by the Rajasthan government, Muslim organisations made it clear that the invitation to the author by the organisers should be withdrawn.

However, organisers said it is up to Rushdie to decide whether he will attend the Jan 20-24 event.

“We will chalk out our strategy of protest tomorrow (Friday),” a representative of the minority community delegation told IANS.

A mystery literary session on the Jan 24 roster of the Jaipur Literature Festival called “Midnight’s Child”, without naming the participants, kept fuelling the speculation whether Rushdie would descend on the pink city.

“Our stand on Salman Rushdie continues to be the same. He will not attend the festival for the first two days…beyond which we are not sure of his schedule,” Sanjoy Roy, the managing director of Teamwork Production, the organisers of the Jaipur festival, told the press here.

Roy said the festival has not rescinded the invitation to the author of “The Satanic Verses”. Roy and his teammates, writer Namita Gokhale and Nand Bhardwaj, met representatives of several minority organisations and heard their views.

“We also presented our views,” Roy said, adding that the festival was a platform for freedom of expression – “to say, write and paint”. He refused to elaborate on the arguments put forth by the Muslim groups.

Roy clarified that “the festival has not received any request from the government to stop Salman Rushdie from coming to India”.

“The festival has 208 authors and 150 performers… Salman Rushdie is a non-story that has been made into a story,” Roy said.

The festival has a glittering line-up of writers and celebrities like television host Oprah Winfrey and writers Michael Ondaatje, Ben Okri and playwright Tom Stoppard.

However, fans refused to give up hope on Rushdie’s visit. “There is a session listed on the last day of the festival, Midnights’s Child, which gives no name. Who knows… he might come to the delight of his admirers here,” Raj Gupta, a Jaipur-based student of English, told IANS.

Rushdie’s proposed visit to the festival came under cloud after several Islamic groups demanded that he should not be allowed to come to India for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the community in his book “The Satanic Verses” – published in 1988.

The book was banned in 1989 and a fatwa was issued against the author by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

The clamour to stop his visit forced a rescheduling of Rushdie’s visit and his arrival to Jaipur Jan 20 was postponed. Rushdie’s name was also taken off the festival schedule.

Abul Qasim Nomani, vice chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, the country’s most influential Islamic seminary, said not allowing Rushdie in India was a “welcome” step.

“He should apologise to the entire Muslim ummah (society) for his blasphemous remarks against Islam and the Prophet. Only then we can allow him to travel to India,” Nomani had told IANS from Deoband.

The media Thursday quoted intelligence bureau as saying, “Salman Rushdie could be a victim of a homegrown terror attack in case he decides to take part in the Jaipur Literary Festival”.

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