Jaipur, Jan 24: The much-anticipated video address by controversial writer Salman Rushdie was cancelled at the last moment today because of fears of violence as Muslim organisations staged protests.
The decision to call off the video address by the Satanic Verses writer came after a meeting festival organisers had with leaders of Muslim organisations during which the protesters told them “even seeing his face is intolerable”.
Announcing the cancellation of Rushdie's address, one of the organisers Sanjay Roy said police had told them that people had got inside the venue to “disrupt proceedings” and cause violence.
“Some organisations have threatened violence. This is unfortunate, but necessary to avoid violence. It is a fairly iditoic situation. We are once again stepping down from the fight for freedom of expression. We have been pushed to the wall again,” Roy said.
“It is unfortunate that we are being bullied again and we had to step down...We had no other way but to listen to save the people here, our children and everyone here,” he added.
Earlier, Assistant Commissioner of Police Virendra Jhala said the owners of the venue had conveyed to them they will not allow the video address fearing repercussions.
After their meeting with organisers, the protesters also offered namaz at the venue.
The Rushdie session—Midnight's Child—was planned for 3.45 pm where the 65-year-old India-born author was to discuss his childhood, his work, problems faced in the past years and the adaptation of his novel Midnight's Children into a film.
“Salman on screen was an issue. Even seeing his face was intolerable,” said Roy quoting the protesters. Ram Pratap Singh, owner of the venue, said, “I have taken a decision to not allow this video link to go ahead on the advice of the Rajasthan police who are monitoring the situation which is rapidly evolving around us”.
“There are large number of people who are averse to this video link and they are actually inside the property. A lot of them have gathered in and around the property...and they have threatened violence” if the video link takes place, he said.
“This is unfortunate but necessary to avoid harm to the property, to all of you, to my children and all the youngsters who are here,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the organisers had said that the video address by Rusdhie will take place as scheduled and that there was no need to get permission.
As the video address got cancelled, the organisers went ahead with a panel discussion with Javed Akthar, Tarun Tejpal and Ashok Vajpayee.
Roy said that the police told them that if they wanted to go ahead with the programme, they would provide adequate security. “We are very very sad...we feel hurt, disgraced,” he added.
Rushdie's ‘Satanic Verses' has been banned in India for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community.
The book cast a shadow on the Festival when four authors read out passages from it leading to complaints against them and the organisers in courts in Jaipur and Ajmer.
Rushdie had on Sunday took to Twitter to vent his anger on Rajasthan Police's claims that his visit had some security concerns.
“Rajasthan police invented plot to keep away Rushdie' I've investigated, and believe that I was indeed lied to. I am outraged and very angry,” he had tweeted.
Rushdie said he does not know if the false intelligence information was given by Rajasthan police under instructions from someone.