Salman Rushdie may not attend literature festival in India following widespread protests

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Salman Rushdie at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Vanity Fair party.
Image: David Shankbone.

Indian author Salman Rushdie may not attend the Jaipur Literature Festival this year following widespread protests from the Islamic community. They demand an apology from Rushdie for offending Muslim sentiments in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. The festival is an annual event which began in 2006, held in the city of Jaipur.

Ashok Gehlot, chief minister of Rajasthan, and P Chidambaram, home minister, fear that Rushdie's presence at the festival might attract objections. "Salman Rushdie's presence does have security implications and we are keeping a close watch and have been in touch with the organisers," Gehlot told NDTV today.

Rushdie's absence has not been officially announced, although Sanjay Roy, event producer, said that "Rushdie will not be in India Jan 20 due to a change in his schedule. The festival stands by its invitation to the author." Rushdie was expected to address at least two literary sessions on January 20. Nearly 250 authors from all over the world are expected to take part in the festival.

Rushdie, who is known for his Booker Prize winning novel Midnight's Children written in 1981, spent a decade in hiding after Ruhollah Khomeini, the then Iranian spiritual leader called for his death. The Islamic community demanded a bar on his entry to India. "His books have hurt and insulted Muslims and Islam — how can he be a guest of this country?," said Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani, the vice chancellor.

Rushdie recently visited India in 2000 to attend the Commonwealth writers forum and visited again in 2007 to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival. Gehlot opined, "We can't prevent (Rushdie) from coming to India since he is a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) and PIOs don't need (a) visa." Activists and free speech advocates have voiced against the government's attempts to stop him from entering India.