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.
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.