Festival reading of Rushdie book stirs anger in India

Published: January 21, 2012
Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses", which is banned in the country, was read out at a literary festival. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses", which is banned in the country, was read out at a literary festival. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

JAIPUR: 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.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • mirror image
    Jan 21, 2012 - 1:21PM

    and they think police will act ??


  • G. Din
    Jan 21, 2012 - 5:08PM

    Banning a book -any book- is shameful. India will never live down this infamy!


  • Deb
    Jan 21, 2012 - 5:38PM

    I personally didn’t approve a very similar vendetta against the famous painter M F Hussain.
    But what surprises me is that none of these Muslim organisations raised their mere eyebrow
    when M F Hussain painted Hindu goddesses naked.Some hypocracy.


  • Arjun Shetty
    Jan 21, 2012 - 6:36PM

    This is not islamic country and some section of muslims will have trouble if they continue this behaviour.


  • let there be peace
    Jan 21, 2012 - 7:08PM

    Ban on Satanic Verses should be lifted. I want freedom to criticize ANY religion and ANY religious figure.


  • antanu g
    Jan 21, 2012 - 7:41PM

    nude paintings are not new. ajanta and elora are there to see….and mind you…in kolkata i see every year nude statues of goddess durga before dessehra…why does it not hurt our senses? you are hurt because a muslim painted the news…but what when the statues are made by showing finer details?


  • harkol
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:55PM

    Banning Satanic Verses and attack on MF hussain will be two most notorious examples of how far India is yet to travel in road to dignity & liberty.

    You have a right not to read Satanic Verses, but you don’t have a right to tell me what not to read! The whole argument is absurd.

    It is as if a few bunch of lunatics decide what is offensive to me! I’ll decide that for myself thank you!!


  • Hindi hain hum
    Jan 21, 2012 - 10:44PM

    @antanu g:
    kolkata i see every year nude statues of goddess durga before dessehra

    Dude, you must stop visiting Kolkata in your dreams from Pakistan. You don’t have a visa.


  • G. Din
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:30AM

    “It is as if a few bunch of lunatics decide what is offensive to me! I’ll decide that for myself thank you!!”
    You have got to be kidding! No one cares what is offensive to read for anyone. It is Muslim Appeasement for Vote Bank Politics, my friend. Nothing else! Look at how they spoke about two men from Mumbai underworld having been deputed to “eliminate” Rushdie. Mumbai Police say they have no knowledge of any such plot! There are elections due in Muslim states like UP and the thugs from that state threatened Chidambharam!


  • Falcon
    Jan 22, 2012 - 10:05AM

    Freedom of speech does not equal lack of respect. No religion should be made a mockery of by communicating half-baked delusional perspectives as objective analysis. In the long run, it is unnecessary and counter-productive distraction while most of the world’s key problems of hunger and disease remain unsolved.


  • John B
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:01PM

    I commend those who read out the excerpts from the book. Stand up and fight the ignorance.


  • Straight_Talk
    Jan 22, 2012 - 3:00PM

    Uttar Pradesh alone sends 80 Loksabha members in a parliament where you need 272 seats to become majority. This state is going for election for the state assembly. Before the next Loksabha elections parties will like to grab as many seats of the UP assembly as possible. Muslims in UP vote in blocks together and exploit their swing quotient to the hilt.The people majorly benefiting from this are some favour-hunting political leaders. These leaders will loose out if Muslims vote as any other individuals. So this Rushdie issue was important to gather the Muslims as a single unit of bulk voters. UP voters need to rise from this pit of caste politics and embrace developmental politics like Bihar.


  • Deb
    Jan 22, 2012 - 4:35PM

    @antanu G
    Firstly a correction.I spent 29 years since birth in Calcutta and never saw a naked statue of goddess durga.
    And secondly the nude paintings or sculptures in Ajanta and Ellora is not about gods and goddesses.

    I think you jumped the gun.I said,I personally didn’t approve a very similar vendetta against the famous painter M F Hussain. Just in case it sounded a little patronising, let me add,
    I don’t see any reason whatsoever, why some one shoud have a fuss over his paintings.You saw my ‘hurt’ I didn’t say that I was hurt ’cause I was not.Being an atheist helped me, but these fundos are not atheists.Why they don’t look at Hussain through the same prism as they apply on Rushdie? That’s the whole point.


  • G. Din
    Jan 22, 2012 - 7:42PM

    “You saw my ‘hurt’ I didn’t say that I was hurt ’cause I was not.Being an atheist helped me, but these fundos are not atheists.”
    I must own to a feeling of hurt at M.F.Hussain’s depiction of Hindu goddesses and I don’t subscribe to atheism to fall back on. It was not his place to express himself thus. But, in truth, he was not “expressing” himself; he was actually mocking a set of beliefs which either he did not understand or had minimal understanding of. If any man who had spent a lifetime studying Hindu spirituality have conducted himself thus, I would not have felt hurt. I would have considered it as constructive criticism which I ought to accept or deny but not to be angry at.
    It is pertinent here to record that an Iranian restauranteur of Mumbai was so incensed at Hussain’s depravity that he got a billboard painted with Hussain in the nude and displayed at a prominent public place until the law enforcement persuaded him to remove it.
    So, does Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” fall in the same genre as Hussain’s stupidity? Most assuredly, not! Why? Because Rushdie is a born and (I hope) a practicing Muslim. It is his right to point out what he does not like about Islam and he would be rightly placed because all he may be asking for is the reform of a doctrine. Same applies to Taslima Nusreen’s “Lujja”. Again, she is a Muslim and was showing the mirror to Bangla Deshi Muslims about their shameful (“lajja”) treatment of Hindus. After all, if such impetus does not come from within, who else has the right to do so?


  • let there be peace
    Jan 22, 2012 - 10:15PM

    @antanu g:
    I used to think you are too innocent and the people calling you a Pakistani faking to be Indian are unfairly targeting you because your views don’t match theirs. But after your comments here I’m also convinced you have never been to India.


  • from india
    Jan 22, 2012 - 10:19PM

    @ Anatanu – those deities in calcutta were in the process of being completed not that they are sold that way …infact we provide with nice saris to maa durga and even jewellery to decorate her :-)


  • Liberalache
    Jan 23, 2012 - 12:15AM

    Pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior/speech gets an audience…in the old days they have Colosseum type arenas where people and animals fought each other to the death…it was considered entertainment. Nudity in the media became acceptable in recent times in the west…then stand up comics started pushing the limits by discussing the most horrendous/taboo topics in a humorous manner in their comedy routines….then this stuff started creeping into mainstream media……making fun of Christianity became acceptable in western media in recent times…..then the boundaries kept getting pushed further and further until you got people like Dennis Miller who openly abuse and make fun of Christians for their beliefs…it is considered freedom of speech in the modern….but it is still clearly insulting. Salman Rushdie is simply an opportunist who sees this tendency and sought to make money off it…he’s no hero, he’s no artist and he’s certainly no thinker…he’s just a guy who made what he thought would be easy money…I have no sympathy for this guy….as a Muslim…I don’t take kindly to being insulted and dont see it as freedom of speech and you liberals and shove that where the sun dont shineRecommend

  • Falcon
    Jan 23, 2012 - 12:23AM

    @G. Din:
    There is an acceptable framework of criticism which which you are expected to operate. You can not deny the law of gravity based on your ‘feelings’ and call it a constructive criticism of Physics. Same applies to Mr. Rushdie and Miss. Tasleema Naureen. And yes, if you have ever gotten a chance to read about Mr. Rushdie’s personal life, he is not a practicing Muslim by any means and similarly, his analysis in the book is not even remotely reflective of the actual interpretation of religious texts. When a person’s desire to misunderstand precedes his willingness to understand, no matter how well he / she tries, he / she will end up in the wrong spot.


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