Fresh shadow on Rushdie’s address after protests

Jaipur, Jan 24 (IANS) The flip-flop continues. A much awaited video address by controversial author Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literature Festival Tuesday afternoon came under a cloud again following protests by Muslim groups at the venue.

Organisers and police were still discussing the prospects of the videoconference by the time this report was filed. Earlier, producer of the festival Sanjoy Roy had said Rushdie’s address was on as scheduled.

Nearly 30 angry representatives of various Islamic organisations in Jaipur tried to enter the venue of the festival Tuesday noon in protest against the video address by Rushdie, author of the banned book ‘The Satanic Verses’.

The protesters led by All India Milli Council leader, Paiker Farukh, a lawyer, who alleged that ‘the festival was trying to portray author Salman Rushdie as a hero’.

‘We have every right to protest in a democratic manner and if the Muslim population of Jaipur comes out in protest, you cannot prevent us. You cannot take us for a ride… we are not fools,’ Farukh told the media outside the venue at Diggi Palace.

The Muslim organisations had filed a petition at the court of an executive magistrate in Jaipur seeking a directive against Rushdie’s address following which the court had summoned four organisers of the festival. But the organisers failed to turn up, a representative of the Muslim delegation said.

Police were summoned to placate the protesters. The commissioner of police reassured the protesters that their interests would be taken into account.

‘We don’t know about the fate of Rushdie’s video address,’ a member of the core committee of the organisers then said.

Rushdie had called off his visit to Jaipur citing threats to his life from ‘paid assassins’. But later he accused Rajasthan Police of hatching a plot about hitmen to keep him away from the festival where he was expected to be the star attraction. Some Muslim groups had also protested his proposed visit. But then the festival organisers said he would address the festival through a video link.

At 12 noon Tuesday, Roy, the producer of the festival, had said, ‘We are going ahead with the link at 3.45 p.m., it will be the session originally planned — Midnight’s Child — and his book’s adaptation and his life and works and the problems he has faced in the past years.

Roy said some clarifications had been sought by the authorities and these had been responded to.