Jaipur, Jan 20: The banned Satanic Verses cast its shadow at the Jaipur Literature Festival today with its controversial author Salman Rushdie citing death threats pulling out of the event where some outraged authors read out portions of the book.
Ending days of speculation over his participation in the event, the India-born Booker prize winning author in a message to the organisers stated that he had been told by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that “paid assassins” from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to “eliminate” him.
“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 said as the five-day literary meet kicked off today.
The 65-year-old novelist later said on Twitter that he would participate at the event via video link.
The circumstances under which Rushdie had to cancel his India visit outraged the literary community who said it is a “stain” on India's reputation.
Darul Uloom Deoband, a leading Islamic seminary which had on January 9 asked government to bar Rushdie from coming to India as he had allegedly hurt religious sentiments of Muslims, welcomed Rushdie's decision.
As a mark of protest, two prominent authors—Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar—used their session at the festival to read out portions from “Satanic Verses”, banned in the country shortly after it was published in 1988, for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Muslims.
Kunzru and Kumar referred to the book during their own readings and discussions and actually went on to read out portions from it.
In fact just before his reading, Kunzru tweeted: “About to defy bigots and shoe throwers, reading @SalmanRushdie Satanic Verses on stage with @amitavakumar at #jaipur #jlf (sic).”
They also read out Rushdie's tweet to the audience in which he had thanked the two for reading from his work to a loud applause.
The organizers later asked Kumar not to go ahead with his reading. Kumar initially agreed to the suggestion but later continued reading from Rushdie's work.
Soon afterwards, authors Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi said they too would read from the Satanic Verses.
A perturbed Rushdie later tweeted: “@amitavakumar says organizers asked him not to continue reading from Satanic Verses.” Willie, Sanjoy: why did this happen?”. He was referring to William Dalrymple and Sanjoy K Roy, the festival organizers.
Rushdie again tweeted: “Joshi too said they would be reading from the Satanic Verses.”