Fresh row over Rushdie, doubts over video link

Jaipur: A fresh row broke out today over Salman Rushdie with the Rajasthan government saying it will not allow the controversial author`s proposed video link address to the Jaipur Literature Festival without its permission adding uncertainty to this event.

As the controversy over the India-born novelist continued to dog the Festival for the fourth day, four authors who read out passages from his banned book ‘Satanic Verses’ and three of the organisers were named in a complaint in a Jaipur court seeking directions to police to lodge FIRs and probe the matter.

The four authors were also named in another complaint in an Ajmer court but the organisers were not mentioned here.

A senior Rajasthan government official told reporters that authorities were examining the issue of video link with Rushdie and said it "would not allow this without prior permission".

The official said no permission has so far been sought by the organisers for the video link which has been planned for tomorrow afternoon on the fifth and last day of the Festival.

Festival producer Sanjoy K Roy was ambivalent about Rushdie`s video link.

"As of now, according to what I know, it is happening. No official has spoken to us so far raising objection," he said.

The complaint before the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Jaipur was filed by Abdul Latif in his capacity as secretary of All India Milli Council. It named the four authors--Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi-- as well as the three organisers—Namita Gokhale, William Dalrymple and Sanjoy Roy.

The second complaint before Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Ajmer was lodged by Muzaffar Bharti, who represents a local group, in his personal capacity.
Additional Police Commissioner Biju George Josheph said the organisers have not sought any permission for video conferencing with Rushdie and nothing will be done without prior permission of the state government.

The four writers who had read out portions from Rushdie`s work had to opt out from the event after organisers distanced themselves from their actions.

With Rushdie`s video link being clouded in uncertainty, an activist group Sahmat has invited Rushdie to Delhi.

"Sahmat is issuing an open invitation to Salman Rushdie to come to Delhi to deliver a lecture or participate in a discussion on literature at any time of his choosing," Ram Rahman of the organisation said in a statement.

Rushdie had pulled out of the festival last week citing death threats. Yesterday, he slammed Rajasthan police for "inventing" a threat to his life to keep him away from the Literature Festival.

The state government however dismissed the charge saying Intelligence Bureau had given the inputs and it was not concocted.

A group of writers meanwhile have put together an online petition urging the government to reconsider the 23-year-old ban imposed on the Satanic Verses for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community.

The petition addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram said the book has not incited violence anywhere and that others have used the novel to incite violence to suit their political ends.

While 340 people had signed the petition on paper yesterday, over 250 had signed it on the website.

Hari Kunzru, who left the festival and later the country, posted a sarcastic comment on microblogging site referring to the proposed videolink by Rushdie.

"So @salmanrushdie to address #jaipur #jlf via videoconf but only if no mention of SV. What then? fashion tips? Weather?" Kunzru wrote.

Meanwhile, Swami Agnivesh who visited the venue of the Festival said some sort of probe should be initiated to investigate who gave the perception of threat to Rushdie.

"This kind of controversy is ridiculous and unbecoming of a democracy," said Agnivesh, who also signed the petition.

PTI

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