Jaipur Literature Festival cancels Salman Rushdie video address

By AFP
Published: January 24, 2012
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The owner of JLF's venue (on giant screen), announces the cancellation of Salman Rushdie's video link session. PHOTO: AFP

The owner of JLF's venue (on giant screen), announces the cancellation of Salman Rushdie's video link session. PHOTO: AFP

JAIPUR: The much-celebrated Jaipur Literature Festival has cancelled a video address by British author Salman Rushdie after police warned that Muslim hardliners in the crowd posed a security threat to the event.

Some Muslim groups had opposed the video link because of alleged blasphemy in Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, which remains banned in India.

Sanjoy Roy, the five-day festival’s producer, said that police had advised organisers that Muslim activists were planning to disrupt the address as thousands of festival-goers gathered to listen to Rushdie.

Rushdie last week withdrew from making a personal appearance at the event when Indian intelligence officials told him that assassins from Mumbai were heading to Jaipur, though he later said he believed the plot was fake.

“There are people within this audience who have been sent in here to disrupt the proceeding. There would be perhaps some violence or an aggressive situation,” Roy told the crowds.

Police had been keen to prevent any protests that could fuel religious tension. Some Muslim groups entered the venue grounds on Tuesday and demanded that Rushdie, who lived in hiding for 10 years due to death threats over The Satanic Verses, be prevented from participating even by video.

Mumbai-born Rushdie vowed to appear by video link when he pulled out on Friday, saying on microblogging website Twitter that he had been told by Indian officials that a “mafia don” had issued weapons to two named hitmen to kill him.

Local politicians in Jaipur later denied reports that the death threat had been concocted by police to avoid demonstrations at the festival.

Ram Pratap Singh, owner of the festival venue, told the crowd he had taken the decision “on advice of the Rajasthan (state) police who are monitoring the situation, who say there is a large number of people … threatening violence.”

Organisers expressed huge disappointment at the campaign against Rushdie, who had appeared at the festival in 2007 without incident.

“It is with extreme regret that after three weeks of this unfolding of a fairly idiotic situation we are having to step down in a fight for the freedom of expression,” Roy told the crowd, who shouted their support for Rushdie. “This is not a decision we can support. We have been pushed to the wall,” he said.

Four of Rushdie’s fellow authors at the event showed their support for the Booker prize-winning writer by reading out passages of The Satanic Verses from the stage in protest last week.

At a panel discussion held in place of Rushdie’s address, one Muslim leader was loudly booed as he defended his position.

“We have not stopped him from coming here,” Salim Engineer said. “If someone comes who is a criminal in our opinion it is our democratic right to protest against him.”

The festival ended on Tuesday after talks from more than 250 speakers including US chat show queen Oprah Winfrey, biologist and atheist author Richard Dawkins, Indian best-selling novelist Chetan Bhagat and Pakistani writers Muhammad Hanif, Fatima Bhutto and Ayesha Jalal.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 24, 2012 - 7:05PM

    Mumbai Bhai zindabad.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 24, 2012 - 7:20PM

    Freedom of expression??

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  • Mj
    Jan 24, 2012 - 7:23PM

    The right to freedom of speech and free expression has been surrendered to the forces that bully and intimidate and threaten violence to get what they want. How fragile is their faith that a work of fiction threatens to dismantle it? I can with 100% certainty state that not a single person among the protesters would have read Rushdie’s book, or any other book for that matter.

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  • ethicalman
    Jan 24, 2012 - 7:33PM

    Like always India is hijacked to vote bank poltics..if pakistani still think that muslims are treated badly in India..they are day dreaming..Infact even India’s foreign policy depends on muslims..the parliament had hot debate if we should have relation with america..India is dying because of congress and this mad vote bank poltics. Hindus don’t vote like muslims do..muslims vote for congress and that brings India down. and hindus don’t care about BJP etc. they also vote for congress…in India polticaly Hindus are minority and muslims are majority.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 24, 2012 - 7:38PM

    @MJ
    Since Internet open the world of information to every one so now no one can say this what u trying to say and now east can not stop wast or west can not stop eastren medicine to come for thoughts of west.

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  • rajabarelvi
    Jan 24, 2012 - 8:16PM

    Islamic Extremism rising , taliban is coming. now the Indians cant say what they used to say about Pakistan.

    i think india should be more focused on indian muslims for their attacks rather than blaming each and everyone on Pakistan .

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  • from india
    Jan 24, 2012 - 9:26PM

    Mr. Salim Enginner – what makes you think Rushdie is a criminal ? He being a British citizen committed no crime in writing Satanic Verses. You may not agree with his views and even get offended, but you have no legitimate right to stop him from coming to the lit fest.Recommend

  • azhar
    Jan 25, 2012 - 12:35AM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    question the figures of holocaust and then ill ask u about freedom of expression

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  • whoever
    Jan 25, 2012 - 1:05AM

    Really proud of him , an Indian taking on Britishers in their own language…. we will be the great culture as we were….count down has already started…..

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  • khurram
    Jan 25, 2012 - 3:08AM

    @from india
    This freedom of expression is all topi drama. If i talk in favour of hitler here, I will disappear in minutes never to be found again. And its same every where. where is the freedom of speech then?

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  • harish
    Jan 25, 2012 - 9:34AM

    @khurram:
    “If i talk in favour of hitler here, I will disappear in minutes never to be found again. And its same every where. where is the freedom of speech then?”

    Talking in favour of hitler is HATE speech, which is not free speech. Maybe they dont teach you the difference in your madrassahs.

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  • Cynical
    Jan 30, 2012 - 11:15PM

    It’s a shame that it was allowed to happen in India.It’s very much like Pakistan.

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