Jaipur: Controversial author Salman Rushdie may have to give the Jaipur Literature Festival a miss. Reports suggest the organisers of the annual fest have asked him to back off following protests from Islamist groups.
In a bid to avert trouble, the Rajasthan government reportedly persuaded the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival to ask Rushdie to call off his visit.
Reports say the government believed Rushdie's presence would create a security risk in light of calls for protests by some radical groups.
One group had even offered a cash reward to anyone who hurled a shoe at him.
As a result the Booker-winning author's events are no longer mentioned on the festival's website. Rushdie was scheduled to speak on January 20 and 21.
Jaipur Literature Festival issued a statement on the issue which read, "Salman Rushdie will not be in India on January 20 due to a change in his schedule. The festival stands by its invitation to Mr Rushdie."
Jaipur literature festival producer Sanjoy Roy said, "Salman Rushdie is coming. Nothing has changed. We have shifted the dates."
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said he had no information on Rushdie's plans.
"We do not have any reports of him coming here We received all information through media reports (on Salman Rushdie visit). Some people met us in Jaipur. We don't know what he is upto. It's is a matter of concern."
Namita Gokhale, one of the directors Jaipur Lit Fest refuted the reports and said, "Salman Rushdie is attending the Jaipur Literature Festival but he will not be there on the opening day."
Islamic Seminary Darul Uloom Deoband wants the government to cancel Rushdie's visa for hurting the sentiments of Muslims in the past. "Indian government should cancel his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past," Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom, said in a release earlier.
Rushdie had a fatwa against him since 1989 after the publication of 'The Satanic Verses'. He is scheduled to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival from January 20 to 24. He has visited the literature festival before, in 2007. The fatwa was eased in 1998, but not withdrawn, when Mohd Khatami's government in Iran said it had no intention of helping anyone enforce it.
The 65-year-old author had been under attack by Islamic hardliners for his controversial book "The Satanic Verses", published in 1988, for "alleged blasphemy" against Prophet Mohammed. India was among the first countries to ban the book.
Rushdie has been in India twice since the controversy. His first visit in 2000 to the country of his birth 12 years after "Satanic Verses" was banned created a flutter in the media. The writer was escorted around with unprecedented security.
In 2007, Rushdie attended the festival at Jaipur. The visit came despite protests by some Muslim groups.
Last year, speculative media reports that he had been invited to attend a Kashmiri literary festival, Harud, had whipped up a controversy in Jammu and Kashmir. The festival was eventually called off - though not for this reason alone.
The novel triggered controversy soon after it was published. Muslims the world over protested, some of the protests turning violent. It also invited a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, the late supreme leader of Iran. In February, 1989 Khomeini called for the death of Rushdie and his publishers.
The fatwa was later revoked on September 24, 1998.
Gehlot meets Chidambaram to discuss Salman Rushdie's visit
Booker-winning author Salman Rushdie's attendance at the Jaipur Literature Festival has kicked up a row. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot met Home Minister P Chidambaram over the issue on Tuesday.
Gehlot said, "We don't have any info on Rushdie's visit. Some people are opposing his visit. We should respect people sentiments. I hope organisers and we together will find some way. Rushdie's presence does have security implications."
Festival organiser Sanjoy Roy on Tuesday clarified that Rushdie will not be in India on January 20 - the opening day of the fest but that the festival stands by its invitation to the author.
Earlier festival director Namita Gokhale denied reports that Rushdie is giving the fest a miss after protests from Islamist groups.
This clarification comes after media reports that the Rajasthan government has persuaded organisers to ask Rushdie to stay away, citing protests.
Rushdie was scheduled to speak on the January 20 and 21 but his scheduled events are no longer mentioned on the festival's website. Though this could also be to avoid trouble.Twitter buzz: Salman Rushdie