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Updated: January 23, 2012 15:42 IST

Salman Rushdie slams Rajasthan government

Sunny Sebastian
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Combo picture of Salman Rushdie (left) and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. “It was not the State alone which provided the inputs on the chances of hired assassins making an attempt at the life of Mr. Rushdie,” Ashok Gehlot said. File photo
AP/The Hindu
Combo picture of Salman Rushdie (left) and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. “It was not the State alone which provided the inputs on the chances of hired assassins making an attempt at the life of Mr. Rushdie,” Ashok Gehlot said. File photo

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot says threat was real

The eminent author Salman Rushdie has said he is “outraged and very angry” over information that Rajasthan authorities fabricated a threat to his life in order to keep him away from the Jaipur Literature Festival. “I have investigated [the issue],” he wrote on his Twitter feed in response to a story published by The Hindu on Sunday, “and believe I was indeed lied to.”

Mr. Rushdie's comments came amid a snowballing controversy over the alleged threat to his life, warnings of police action against authors who read passages from his proscribed book, The Satanic Verses, and angry denials of wrongdoing from the Rajasthan government.

Festival organisers had announced that Mr. Rushdie had called off his scheduled visit on Friday, citing advice from the government authorities that hired killers from the Mumbai underworld had been set on him in order to eliminate him during his visit.

The Hindu, however, reported on Sunday that the two purported Mumbai-based assassins cited in the security threat were unknown to the city police. The third alleged perpetrator, the former Students Islamic Movement of India activist Saqib Hamid Nachan, was living at his home 80 km from Mumbai — raising the question why no action was taken against him if he was actually involved in a plot to kill Mr. Rushdie.

Mr. Rushdie also voiced his support for four authors who read from The Satanic Verses: Hari Kunzru, Ruchir Joshi, Amitava Kumar and Jeet Thayil. The four authors have been named in a complaint filed in the Ashok Nagar police station in Jaipur. “We received the complaint yesterday [on Saturday] and are examining it,” Station House Officer A. Mohammad told PTI. “No FIR has been lodged so far.” Police are, however, reported to have sought to question the authors — leading to Mr. Kumar leaving the country.

“Disgusting,” Mr. Rushdie said of the police action.

Government denial

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot defended the State government's actions while speaking to The Hindu. “It was not the State alone which provided the inputs on the chances of hired assassins making an attempt on the life of Mr. Rushdie,” he said. “The threat was real and it was not imaginary,” he asserted.

“We received advisories from Mumbai six times this month and also the details of the persons hired for the purpose,” he said. “Starting from January 6, we received advisories giving the same kind of perception till January 18,” he said. “I am also aware that this was communicated to Mr. Rushdie by the highest levels of bureaucracy in the country as well,” he said. Mr. Gehlot added that the State acted “on the basis of information and inputs we received.”

Mr. Gehlot's statements raise several interesting questions. For one, it is unclear precisely who in Mumbai communicated the advisories to the Rajasthan government. K. Subramaniam, Maharashtra's Director-General of Police, had, on Saturday, flatly denied that his force had communicated any intelligence related to Mr. Rushdie's safety to Rajasthan. “When we had no information that gangsters or paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld had planned to eliminate Salman Rushdie how could we have shared it with anybody?” he asked.

The Chief Minister's suggestion that New Delhi was aware of threats emanating from the Mumbai underworld, if correct, would also suggest a security lapse. In that case, New Delhi ought to have asked for the Maharashtra Police assistance in locating the potential assassins of one of the world's most famous authors — something Mr. Subramaniam's statement makes clear was not done.

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I don't understand one thing: reading a book is not obligatory. On the contrary, it needs an effort. Reading the Satanic Verses takes an extra effort as far as it's not an easy novel. Why the hell, if a person doesn't like the topic or thinks he or she is going to be uncomfortable with it, doesn't simply buy or read another book and forgets about this one? Why is necessary to create such a scandal? The Satanic Verses is one of the best novels I've ever read, but that's my own opinion. If anybody else thinks that's not for him, he can do as I did with Paulo Coelho... and I don't claim for Coelho's head (for me, to be away from all his books, is good enough).

from:  Guillermo
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 18:45 IST

It's quite unbelievable how this issue has been given such importance by the concerned parties themselves. Blown way out of proportion, it hardly makes any sense when our country is reeling from much more serious issues. Well, may be this is how our country works; frankly the Rajasthan government's handling of the issue shouldn't even shock or surprise. This is the way it has been for a long time now.
A needless, shameful controversy to say the least.

from:  Satwat Bagchi
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 15:08 IST

Why? I pray..Why are we giving so much importance to Salman Rushdie? I mean why is the media even covering him? We certainly don't have a dearth of issues that need to be showcased to the larger sensitive India!

from:  Sumedha
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 14:12 IST

When it comes to M.F.Hussain,you have to worry about Hindu fanatics
and when it comes to Salman Rushdie & Taslima Nasreen its Islam
fanatics, and for Dan Brown and Davinci Code its Christain
fanatics.WHICH ERA ARE WE LIVING?? Every Religious Texts and
authenticity of religious findings should be subjected for debate and
evaluated thoroughly.If one or two persons can disturb your
belief,then you are not a true believer and its high time to check our
tolerance level. One must not forget that Human race progressed
through ages only by questioning,disputes and analyzing the previous
established records by our forefathers.

from:  bipin balu
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 13:55 IST

There is no clear proof that Rajasthan Government is behind all these mess. It is the organazisers of this event who are to be blamed for creating such a frenzy so that they can grab headlines, at least for a few days. Some of the authors even managed to get their 5 minutes of fame after reading from the banned book. They clearly know that they are breaking law and so ran away from the venue (one even left the country) fearing arrest and police is saying that no one has lodged an FIR. So anyone with even a minimum sense can see that it a ploy of the organizers and publishers to increase their exposure and sales. It is a marketing strategy used by publishers and authors across the world.

from:  Shahid
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 13:20 IST

Freedom of Speech has no value in this country. This is what we call as the highest example of Vote bank Politics. Every now or then such things happen in our country and this time Salman Rushdie has been used as a pawn. It was indeed a sad day in the Indian Democracy as well as for the Indian Literature.

from:  Kanav
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 12:38 IST

Given the fact that Mr. Gehlot's assertions do not chime in with the Maharastra's top cop's statement it could well be said that the entire episode of threat to Mr. Rushdie's life and consequent actions were part of a well planned but poorly executed plan to keep the controversial writer away from attending the festival. We as the largest democracy in the world set a wonderful precedent as to how to deny someone his right to visit the country of his origin and thereby trample upon the interest of the majority eagerly expecting his attendance by staging a 'threat to life' drama and in the process yielding to evil fundamentalist forces.

from:  Mukul Kanti Dutta
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 12:35 IST

Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democratic rights. It gives one an open environment in public participation. Instead of faking things, the govt. should have supported Mr. Rushdie and ensured completely safety for him. The current attitude of Rajasthan govt. is restricting the freedom of expression and thereby the literature itself in case of Mr. Rushdie. Similar case was with Late Mr. Hussain.

from:  Amit Mugal
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 12:26 IST

We a Democratic Country are celebrating "Literacy" in great pomp and show through a high profile Literacy week calling the nobles laureates from all across the globe to promote Literacy and our very basic fundamental right "the freedom of speech" . The recent rift and controversies and the bars put on Mr.Rushdie is a shame and a question to the mass that are we actually a Democratic Nation? Like "art" can't be put behind bars ...So is an "Expression".So in case of Mr. Rushdie,I strongly feel that it should be taken as just another aspect and Literature in that form should be given respect and regards.

from:  Shalini Joshi
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 11:18 IST

It is sad that "freedom of speech" in this country has no value. A distinguished author such as Mr.Rushdie lives and works out of another country because of this kind of disrespectful and distasteful behavior. Very sad day for literature.

from:  Alexander Mathew
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 10:14 IST

If Mr.Gehlot and his forces are right, then how our VVIPs can go for
election campaign through the length and breadth of our country when the
terrorists are waiting for a chance ? Mr. Gehlot please don't make the
public "fools".

from:  Pichi
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 09:46 IST

Welcome to the land of vote bank politics

from:  Deka
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 09:15 IST

People who cause social disturbance in the name of freedom of expression should be (1) banned from entering India (2) should be prosecuted (3) should be given prison sentence with hard labour so that they can serve till their death in prison for many many years.
Freedom of expression is one thing.
Using that to create social tension is what Nazis did and Hitler is an example.

from:  HariIslam
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 07:45 IST

The CM cannot defend a hoax. Everybody knows Salman's life was in danger anywhere,the point was providing the required security,which the Government didn't, in fact they fabricated a hoax and prevented him from entering. A point to ponder here is,the book may have been felt controversial,and it was banned in India,but there was no such ban on the person,then what was all the fuss about?who were the people objecting his entry?were they common citizen of India? I don't think so,the common citizen of India is mature and never gets involved in such irrational issues.The Governments of many states in India are giving undue response to such calls by various religious
organisations,which in fact doesn't have the backings of a responsible
or common citizen of the land.Such irresponsible acts of the
Governments with political motives will ultimately put a big question
mark on we calling ourselves secular.

from:  Jaya Prakash
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 07:29 IST

Mr Rushdie, As a citizen of the country I apologise for the inept handling of your visit . Be that as it may , speak out loudly what you wanted to say during the meet. All would like to hear your say.

from:  chandrasekhara Ramanna
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 04:59 IST

Hindu, don't you think that it is too much of this Rushdie thing now. It is now so repetitive for the last couple of days that it is getting boring. There are other issue of importance that need to be covered.

from:  Misbah
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 04:07 IST

May I ask Dileep Padgaonkar (ex-TOI Chief Editor), who is much vocal about anti-majoritarionism and secularism, why is he mum about this matter which is flagrantly an anti-secularist action of the Rajasthan Government? What Gehlot says is unbelievable. This has put our country to shame. Are we garnering Ayutullahs in India in the garb of secularism?

from:  Chandragupt Maurya
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 03:41 IST

Gehlot stement is fabricted one, when there was no information from mumbai, how did he received the information about goodas arriving at rajasthan to take away the life of Rushdie. If Gehlot had that information he should have arranged to locate those goods than going to Delhi and talking to home minister. The Rajasthan Governament & congress is misleeding to the entire community, only in the interest of winning the minority votes.But most unfortunate is that, misuse of power,constitution and fundamental rights.How safe we are with these kind of politicians.

from:  Suresh D.R
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 02:41 IST
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