Mumbai Police say they have no record of alleged hit-men sent to kill him

Local intelligence officials in Rajasthan invented information that hit men were preparing to assassinate eminent author Salman Rushdie in a successful plot to deter him from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, highly placed police sources have told The Hindu.

Sources in the festival administration told The Hindu that Rajasthan Police intelligence officials had claimed that the threat to Mr. Rushdie came from two underworld hit men who they identified as “Altaf Batli” and “Aslam Kongo.” The intelligence officials also said an Islamist terrorist, Saqib Hamid Nachan, was suspected of financing the plot to assassinate Mr. Rushdie.

“I received a call from one of Mr. Rushdie's friends on Friday, asking about these names,” said a senior officer of the Mumbai Police, who deals with organised crime. “I thanked him for giving me something to laugh about.”

The officer said the Mumbai Police's dossiers on organised crime figures had no reference to individuals who might be using “Altaf Batli” and “Aslam Kongo.” “We've had a Salim Langda [‘the lame'], a Salim Kutta [‘the dog'], a Salim Tempo [‘truck'] and a Javed Fawda [‘the spade'] — but no ‘Kongo.' Lots of Batlis [‘bottles'], but no Kongos.”

The third name is of a former Students Islamic Movement of India leader from the village of Padgah, 80 km from Mumbai, who remains under 24-hour covert surveillance, though he has been acquitted of the past charges of participating in terrorist attacks in 2002-2003.

Maharashtra's Director-General of Police P.K. Subramaniam went on record to deny that his force had provided information on a potential threat to Mr. Rushdie. “When we had no information that gangsters or paid assassins from [the] Mumbai underworld had planned to eliminate Mr. Rushdie,” he told journalists in Mumbai, “how could we have shared it with anybody”?

Intelligence sources in New Delhi said no threat to Mr. Rushdie's life had been reported to the Multi-Agency Centre, the Intelligence Bureau's hub at which all terrorism-related threats are discussed at high-level afternoon meetings.

Mr. Rushdie cancelled his appearance at the Festival, saying he had been told that “paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld” were seeking to kill him.

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