Jaipur: The organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival have said that they will be going ahead with the video link with controversial author Salman Rushdie at 3.45 pm later this afternoon.
The discussion on Midnight's Children which was to take place on the front lawns at 10 am this morning, according to the original event schedule, and was postponed to a later time following uncertainity over his legitimacy to appear at the fest via a video link. While the crux of the author's conversation with journalist, Barkha Dutt, will be his 1981 book Midnight's Children — which is about India's transition from being a British colony to gaining its independence and the partition of India — the author is also expected to talk about his life, career and the various problems he has faced over his writing. The author will be video linked from a studio in New York via NDTV.
The author the writer of 11 novels was to attend the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival but, last Friday confirmed his absence from it, citing a threat to his life. In a statement released by his representatives in India, Rushdie confirmed that he would not be attending the festival as he had been told that paid assassins were on their way to Jaipur in a quest for him.
“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,” the statement had said.
Reports of the Rajasthan government saying it will not allow the controversial author’s proposed video link without its permission, fanned the flames of uncertainty of his presence at the event.
While festival organiser, Sanjoy Roy, had earlier said he did not have any information about the festival needing to seek permission from the government, he told reporters at a press conference in Jaipur today, that the state government had never said it will not provide the author or the festival security. He said that the government had in fact given the go ahead to host Rushdie via video link.
"The Rajasthan government has said that no permission is needed. The government never said they won't give security or that Rushdie should not come," Roy told CNN-IBN in Jaipur.
In a probable jibe to the press, he added, "Want all conversation here done in accordance with the laws of the land. And we hope the press will have new stories to chase now and this controversy will be laid to rest."
Roy said the JLF organisers spoke to the police and gave them their interpretaion of what happened last Friday when four authors — Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi — read out portions from Rushdie’s work last Friday.
Roy said he cannot evaluate how serious the threats to the video link presence of Rushdie and also that JLF had received a bunch of letters from some organisations — but he doesn't know what they say, yet.
Roy said that there will be no readings from any portion of The Satanic Verses at today's discussion, but he denied giving Rushdie pointers on what to discuss through the video link.
"We have not advised Rushdie what to say or what not say" he said. "I am not in position to tell Mr Rushdie what to write or say."
On 9 January, the Islamic Seminary Darul Uloom Deoband said that the Indian government should cancel Rushdie’s visa as he had hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past.
Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, and invited a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on 14 February 1989.
Watch the CNN-IBN report:
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