Reading of Rushdie book at literary fest stirs anger

JAIPUR - Indian police examined television footage on Saturday pending any formal investigation after Salman Rushdie’s banned novel was read out at a literary festival.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 22 Jan 2012, 8:28 PM

Last updated: Thu 27 Jul 2023, 4:35 PM

Rushdie was forced to withdraw from appearing at the Jaipur Literature Festival due to security fears when some Muslim groups threatened to demonstrate at the event over the blasphemous book.

Fellow authors at the festival expressed their opposition to the campaign against Indian-born Rushdie, and on Friday writers Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar read out passages of from the stage in protest.

“We are examining the footage,” deputy inspector-general of Jaipur police Biju George Joseph told AFP. “The authors have been told to stick to their topics and not enter any controversy.”

“It was only some sentences taken from the book, they did not have a copy of the book itself,” he added.

Muslim activists said they would register their claims with the police that the reading was illegal.

“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 “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 to distance themselves from the public reading, which was greeted with applause from the listening crowd. “People have the right to express themselves within the constitutional framework,” festival producer Sanjoy Roy to AFP.

“We explained to all the authors at the festival the legal consequences of doing this,” he said. “We must act within the law, and we have no choice but to ensure the audience and authors are safe.”

The Booker prize-winning author said on Friday he had reluctantly been forced to pull out the festival after intelligence officials warned him of a possible assassination attempt by hitmen from the Mumbai criminal underworld.

After Rushdie’s withdrawal, festival co-founder William Dalrymple said “in a more just world his arrival here would have been heralded by people in the streets throwing out rose petals in front of him rather than this nonsense”.

The annual Jaipur festival, which is free to attend, has grown into a major literary, business and social occasion in the Indian calendar.

Among more than 250 speakers this year are US chat show queen Oprah Winfrey, biologist and atheist author Richard Dawkins, and Indian best-selling novelist Chetan Bhagat. —

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