Rushdie visit: Govt rules out ban; author unfazed

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.

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday ruled out
barring Salman Rushdie from visiting India in the wake of a
demand by a top Islamic seminary to cancel his visa even as
the controversial author said he does not need a visa to come
to this country.

Official sources said 65-year-old Rushdie holds a Person
of Indian Origin (PIO) card which entitles him to visit this
country without a visa.

The sources said since PIO card guarantees any such
person hassle-free travel without any document, Rushdie is not
required to apply to any authority of the Government of India
seeking permission for his proposed visit to attend the Jaipur
Literature Festival this month end.

"He had travelled to India in the past using PIO card.
We have never stopped him. We have no intention to stop any
PIO card holder to travel his or her home country in future
either," a source said.

Rushdie remained unfazed over the demand by Darul Uloom
Deoband to block his planned trip to India and suggested it
was misplaced.

"Regarding my Indian visit, for the record, I don`t need
a visa," posted Rushdie on microblogging site Twitter after
Deoband demanded that the Indian government cancel the
author`s visa as he had hurt religious sentiments of Muslims
in the past. Indian-origin Rushdie also has a British passport.

"Why should Congress stop this(Rushdie trip)?," Union
Law Minister Salman Khurshid asked.

"If there is a legal provision to stop someone then it
should be put. But whatever step is taken should be taken
within legal framework not outside it," he said.

Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani
said yesterday that the "Indian government should cancel
his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of
Muslims in the past."

Political parties reacted to the Deoband demand amid
some finger pointing.

BJP`s Nirmala Seetharaman alleged there is a "very big
game" behind the visa row and accused the Congress of being
behind it.

Samajwadi Party`s Shahid Siddiqui said the Government`s
approach exposed its "double standards" on the issue of giving
travel documents to Rushdie and the late painter MF Husain.

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.