Lit fest: Rushdie’s video address cancelled

Zeenews Bureau

Jaipur: Within hours of protest from various Muslim organisations amid talks of controversial author Salman Rushdie’s video conference, Ram Pratap Singh Diggi, the owner of Diggi Palace, the venue for Jaipur Literature Festival, sensing public outrage said that no such event will take place in his premises.

The decision to call off the video address by the Satanic Verses writer came after a meeting festival organisers had with leaders of Muslim organisations during which the protesters told them "even seeing his face is intolerable".

Announcing the cancellation of Rushdie's address, one of the organisers Sanjay Roy said police had told them that
people had got inside the venue to "disrupt proceedings" and cause violence.

"Some organisations have threatened violence. This is unfortunate, but necessary to avoid violence. It is a fairly iditoic situation. We are once again stepping down from the fight for freedom of expression. We have been pushed to the wall again," Roy said.

"It is unfortunate that we are being bullied again and we had to step down...We had no other way but to listen to save the people here, our children and everyone here," he added.

Earlier, Assistant Commissioner of Police Virendra Jhala said the owners of the venue had conveyed to them they will
not allow the video address fearing repercussions.

After their meeting with organisers, the protesters also offered namaz at the venue.

Ram Pratap Singh, owner of the venue, said, "I have taken a decision to not allow this video link to go ahead on the
advice of the Rajasthan police who are monitoring the situation which is rapidly evolving around us".

"There are large number of people who are averse to this video link and they are actually inside the property. A lot of them have gathered in and around the property...and they have threatened violence" if the video link takes place, he said.

"This is unfortunate but necessary to avoid harm to the property, to all of you, to my children and all the youngsters who are here," he said.

Earlier, Jaipur Literature Festival producer Sanjoy Roy had confirmed that they have got permission from the police to go ahead with Rushdie's video conference while the Milli Council activists started protesting outside the literature festival venue, demanding Rushdie’s video link be called off.

Roy told reporters that the permission was granted after police were assured that no controversial works will be read out during Salman Rushdie’s video link.

The controversial author’s video conference was scheduled to take place at 3:45 pm today for about forty minutes where Rushdie would have read excerpts from ‘Midnight’s Children.’

The authorities had earlier refused to grant permission till the time a written undertaking was given stating no excerpts will be read out from his controversial book 'The Satanic Verses.'

Earlier, the government had refused to allow the Booker prize winning author to visit the festival as it feared threat to law and order situation owing to Rushdie’s controversial status. Rushdie, who was disappointed at not being able to attend the festival, was hopeful that he would be able to hold the video conference.

There has been huge amount of controversy and debate over Rushdie’s visit to the Pink City for the lit fest. Numerous Islamic groups protested against his visit and the author was asked to stay away by the Rajasthan government. Rushdie has had a fatwa issued against him in 1998 for his controversial book ‘The Satanic Verses’.

(With PTI inputs)

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