`The Satanic Verses` is a book, not a bomb, says Kunzru

Jaipur: Having left the Jaipur Literature Festival following a police complaint over him reading passages from The Satanic Verses, author Hari Kunzru Sunday said he did not believe he had broken the law by reading from a downloaded segment of the book and had no intention to hurt the feelings of anybody.

In a statement posted on his website, Kunzru apologised if he had unintentionally hurt feelings or appeared to have caused disrespect to a religion.

He said the incident brought the Jaipur Police Commissioner to question them briefly and in him getting a legal advice that he should leave India immediately, as otherwise he held the risk of being arrested. Kunzru left Jaipur early on Saturday morning, and left India the same day.

He said he was perturbed at the accusation of MP Asaduddin Owaisi that he was “Islam-bashing under the guise of liberalism”. “I would like to reiterate that in taking this action I believed (and continue to believe) that I was not breaking the law, and had no interest in causing gratuitous offense. I apologise unreservedly to anyone who feels I have disrespected his or her faith. Our intention was not to offend anyone’s religious sensibilities, but to give a voice to a writer who had been silenced by a death threat. Reading from another one of his books would have been meaningless. The Satanic Verses was the cause of the trouble, so The Satanic Verses it would have to be,” he said.

“We did not choose passages which have been construed as blasphemous by Muslim opponents of the book. This would have been pointless, as these passages have overshadowed the rest of the content of the novel, which concerns the relationship between faith and doubt, and contains much that has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. We wanted to demystify the book. It is, after all, just a book. Not a bomb. Not a knife or a gun,” he wrote.

He also said that he believed that the furore around the visit of Rushdie, who has often visited India without a fuss, was a “manufactured controversy” this time and was not unconnected with the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh.

The eruption, he said, was not spontaneous but an example of “manipulation of religious sentiment for political ends”.

“We knew this little-read and much-burned book was banned in India, but it was our understanding that this meant it was a crime to publish, sell, or possess a copy. We knew it would be considered provocative to quote from it, but did not believe it was illegal,” he said.

He said he was extremely angry over what had happened to Rushdie and felt it was important to show support for an author was has often misrepresented and caricatured by people who know little or nothing about his work.