Muslim activists in India said on Saturday they would lodge a complaint with police after Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses”, which is banned in the country, was read out at a literary festival.
Rushdie was forced to withdraw from the Jaipur Literature Festival due to security fears when some Muslim groups threatened to demonstrate at the event over the allegedly blasphemous book.
Fellow authors at the festival expressed their anger at the campaign against Indian-born Rushdie, and on Friday writers Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar read out passages of “The Satanic Verses” from the stage in protest.
“We will discuss the matter with our people and after that we will lodge a formal complaint with police,” Engineer Salim, who represents the Rajasthan Muslim Forum, a Jaipur-based umbrella organisation, told AFP.
“It is an offence. Action must be taken against those who did it,” he said.
A spokesman from the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami Hind group described reading the novel to the festival audience as “a provocative act which may create trouble”.
“I spoke to the Jaipur police commissioner seeking his intervention. We are discussing the matter and will file a written complaint with police,” Mohammad Nazimuddin said. “We demand action against them as per the law.”
Organisers of the festival, which attracts tens of thousands of Indian and foreign visitors every year, moved quickly to distance themselves from the public reading, which was greeted with applause from the listening crowd.
“(We) are fully committed to ensuring compliance of all prevailing laws and will continue to offer… fullest cooperation to prevent any legal violation,” they said in a statement.
“Any action by any delegate or anyone else involved with the festival that in any manner falls foul of the law will not be tolerated and all necessary, consequential action will be taken.”
“The Satanic Verses”, which was published in 1988 and remains banned in India, is seen by many Muslims worldwide as a blasphemous work that insults their religion.
Rushdie, who was born in Mumbai, spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death over the novel.
Rushdie said on Friday he had reluctantly been forced to pull out the Jaipur festival after Indian intelligence officials warned him of a possible assassination attempt by hitmen from the Mumbai criminal underworld.