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Jan 21, 2012 at 12:24am IST

'The Satanic Verses' read at Jaipur Literature Fest

Jaipur: After days of uncertainty over his presence, and threats from fringe groups, controversial author Salman Rushdie decided to stay away from the Jaipur Literature Festival this year.

However, several writers at the festival lodged their protests on the opening day.

As mark of their protest, writers Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar read out a passage from The Satanic Verses, Rushdie's banned book.

The writers were later stopped by the organisers from reading additional passages from Rushdie's banned book.

But this failed to deter the writers as about an hour later, as writer Ruchir Joshi and poet Jeet Thayil repeated the act of defiance by reading passages from the book. They were also stopped by the organisers.

The organisers, in a possible damage control mode, issued a press release saying they had nothing to do with the entire incident and that "any comments" made by the delegates reflected their personal, individual views and were "not endorsed by the Festival".

"It has come to our attention that certain delegates acted in a manner during their sessions today which were without the prior knowledge or consent of the organizers," the release said.

"Any views expressed or actions taken by these delegates are in no manner endorsed by the Jaipur Literature Festival. Any comments made by the delegates reflect their personal, individual views and are not endorsed by the Festival or attributable to its organisers or anyone acting on their behalf.

"The Festival organisers are fully committed to ensuring compliance of all prevailing laws and will continue to offer their fullest cooperation to prevent any legal violation of any kind.

"Any action by any delegate or anyone else involved with the Festival that in any manner falls foul of the law will not be tolerated and all necessary, consequential action will be taken.

"Our endeavour has always been to provide a platform to foster an exchange of ideas and the love of literature, strictly within the four corners of the law. We remain committed to this objective."

The move of the organisers was later questioned by Rushdie on Twitter.

He posted a tweet, "@vikasbajaj: .@amitavakumar says organizers asked him not to continue reading from Satanic Verses. Willie, Sanjoy: why did this happen?"

Earlier, the controversial author issued a statement that he would not visit the Jaipur Literature Festival as the intelligence had warned him of threats from the Mumbai underworld.

"For the last several days I have made no public comment about my proposed trip to the Jaipur Literary Festival at the request of the local authorities in Rajasthan, hoping that they would put in place such precautions as might be necessary to allow me to come and address the Festival audience in circumstances that were comfortable and safe for all.

"I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to "eliminate" me. While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the Festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience, and to my fellow writers. I will therefore not travel to Jaipur as planned."

He even tweeted saying: "Very sad not to be at Jaipur. I was told bombay mafia don issued weapons to 2 hitmen to "eliminate" me. Will do video link instead. Damn."

Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said no one could blame the government as Rushdie took the decision to not come himself. He also criticised writers' plans to protest by reading from the banned book.

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