Rushdie unlikely to attend Jaipur Festival

Jaipur/New Delhi, Jan 17: Controversial writer Salman Rushdie is unlikely to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival beginning in Jaipur Friday, highly placed sources said Tuesday.

Although there is no official announcement yet, the sources told IANS that the British Indian novelist may keep away from the Jan 20-24 event scheduled at the Diggi Palace Hotel.

The sources gave no details but spoke as Rajasthan Chief Minister told Home Minister P. Chidambaram in Delhi that Rushdie’s presence could spark off trouble.

Muslim groups have come out against the visit by Rushdie, whose fourth novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’ (1988), led to major protests from Muslims in many countries after a ‘fatwa’ by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989.

Organisers of the popular Jaipur Literature Festival, however, admitted that Rushdie ‘will not attend’ the first day of the event.

The event’s producer Sanjay Roy said in a two-line statement: ‘Rushdie will not be in India Jan 20 due to a change in his schedule. The festival stands by its invitation to the author.’

The organisers were mum over whether he will attend the festival or not.

Gehlot told reporters in Delhi: ‘We don’t have any official communication when he is coming… but minorities in the state are protesting against it. I have informed him (Chidambaram) about the situation.

‘It is a famous festival. I am sure organisers … would not want anything to happen that affects the whole festival. I hope we work out something so that things don’t turn ugly.

‘We can’t prevent (Rushdie) from coming to India since he is a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) and PIOs don’t need visa,’ said Gehlot, who also met Law and Minorities Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

Many Muslim leaders in Rajasthan have asked the government not to let Rushdie enter India.

After Darul Uloom Deoband — the country’s biggest Islamic seminary — demanded that the writer be denied entry, some leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) minority cell in Rajasthan echoed the view.

Darul Uloom vice president Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani said India must cancel Rushdie’s visa as he had hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.

Rushdie has been in India twice since the controversy erupted.

His first visit took place in 2000, and the second in 2007 when he attended the literary festival at Jaipur.

IANS