Jaipur literary festival begins today sans Rushdie

Jaipur: While mystery still surrounds the visit of Salman Rushdie, the Jaipur Literature Festival will kick off today with an array of international and Indian writers and global celebrities including TV mogul Oprah Winfrey.

They also refused to spell out whether or not he would visit the festival at all.

The organisers also held a meeting with representatives of some Muslim organisations to exchange point of views over the issue but to no avail.

"As of now we are not sure of his (Rushdie`s) schedule of arrival. He will not be here for the next couple of days as stated earlier. We, however, stand by our invitation, we have not rescinded it," said festival producer Sanjoy K Roy, who refused to take any other question on the Rushdie affair.

"Apart from this there is no other status to offer you for now," he told reporters at a press conference.

Roy said the festival representatives had conveyed to the group of Muslim organisations in the meeting that they had always stood for freedom of expression and continue to do so.

"Our festival has also always stood by the issues of the minority communities and other sections. We allow free speech as long as it is done in a peaceful way," Roy said.

As the Muslim organisations, who have made known their opposition to Rushdie`s visit, said they would hold a protest if he attended the festival, Roy conceded that the festival organisers too were worried about the security issue.

He, however, said it was unfortunate that the Rushdie issue had overshadowed the other aspects of the festival. "This is idiotic. This is a non-story being made into a story," a visibly agitated Roy said.


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