Muslim groups, opposed to the scheduled visit of the controversial author Salman Rushdie to the Jaipur Literature Festival starting here on Friday, withdrew their decision to stage a protest.
The dramatic development came late on Thursday evening after Congress MP from Jaipur Mahesh Joshi met Muslim leaders in the Musaffir Khana and assured them of “keeping Mr. Rushdie away” throughout the festival period.
The Muslim leaders told The Hindu that Jaipur's Deputy Commissioner of Police Ashok Naruka too visited the Musaffir Khana to inform them that the author would not be coming to the city.
Earlier, the talks between the Muslim groups led by Rajasthan Muslim Forum and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and the two organisers, Sanjoy Roy and Namita Gokhale, in a city hotel got bogged down as the Muslim leaders insisted on a categorical statement from the festival management that Mr. Rushdie's invitation stood cancelled. The leaders said they did not have anything against the festival but Mr. Rushdie, whom they termed a “criminal,” would not be allowed to come to Jaipur.
There were more than a dozen Muslim leaders, who were insistent that the writer would not be welcome even for a day. There were rumours and, some local newspaper reports, that Mr. Rushdie might make a surprise appearance at the festival after skipping the initial two days.
The Muslim leaders, who later met at the Musaffir Khana for six hours to deliberate on the plan of action decided to go ahead with the dharna programme in front of the Jama Masjid in the Walled City's Johri Bazar after the Friday prayers. “We are not against literature. We are happy about the Jaipur Literature Festival coming up so well. However, there is no compromise on Mr. Rushdie who has deeply hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims the world over through his writings. If there is no categorical stand on cancellation of his visit we will go ahead with our protest as well,” said Engineer Saleem, national secretary, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.