New Delhi: Controversial author Salman Rushdie has brushed aside opposition to his India trip by top Islamic Seminary Darul Uloom Deoband, saying he does not need a visa to visit the country.
"Regarding my Indian visit, for the record, I don`t need a visa," posted Rushdie on microblogging site Twitter in the wake of demands by Deoband that the Indian government cancel his visa as he had hurt religious sentiments of Muslims in the past.
Indian-origin Rushdie, who has a British passport, is scheduled to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival this month end.
Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani had said yesterday that the "Indian government should cancel his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past."
65-year-old Rushdie had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to the alleged blasphemous content in his novel "The Satanic Verses" which was published in 1988.
The novel, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on February 14, 1989.
Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamworks Productions which is organising the Jaipur Literature Festival said, "A literary platform like the Jaipur festival provides a space for free speech in India`s best democratic traditions.”
"Salman Rushdie has attended several literary events and forums in India in recent years without incident. This includes his attending the Commonwealth Writers Prize awards in 2000, and the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007.
"In plural societies such as ours, it is imperative that we continue to allow avenues for unfettered literary expression," said Roy.
Organisers of the JLF recalled that the festival had radical speakers in the past too.
"We had Ayyan Hirsi Ali two years ago, a fiery Somalian born author who was more explosive than Rushdie," the organisers said.
The Booker Prize winner will participate in sessions on three consecutive days at the four-day festival that kicks off on January 20.
In his first session, the ‘Midnight`s Children’ author will be in conversation with British Indian novelist Hari Kunzru.
On January 21, Rushdie along with authors Rita Kothari and Tarun Tejpal will discuss the nuances of English with noted writer Ira Pande on the topic `Inglish, Amlish, ‘Hinglish: The chutnification of English’.
The following day, Rushdie will take part in a discussion on `Shehar aur Sapna: The City as a Dream` with Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif, writers Aman Sethi, Meenal Bhagel and Uday Prakash that is moderated by poet and writer Ashok Vajpayee.
Rushdie, who has authored nine novels, two books for children and a host of essays and nonfiction had previously attended the JLF in the year 2007.
Last year, there were rumours of Rushdie`s participation at Harud literary festival scheduled to be held in September in Srinagar.
The event was eventually cancelled.