Dr. Gurdial Singh Sandhu, IAS, Principal Secretary, Home Affairs, Home Guards & Civil Defence Jail, Government of Rajasthan, writes:

Kindly refer to the editorial “A national shame” in The Hindu on Monday, 23 January, 2012, and also news items published in the newspaper on 22 and 23 January, 2012 regarding the visit of Mr. Salman Rushdie to [the] Jaipur Literature Festival.

It seems that complete information may not have been available with you on this incident.

I may mention here that the allegation made by Mr. Salman Rushdie against the Rajasthan Police [that the plot to eliminate him was fabricated] is utterly baseless.

The threat to eliminate Mr. Salman Rushdie was received by the State Government from authentic reports of intelligence channels as also from the Union Home Ministry. And this threat was considered very serious and is not a ‘plot' invented by the Rajasthan Police.

Here I may quote in brief the contents of Advisory received from MHA on January 17, 2012:-

“It may be mentioned that Saquib Nachan, Former General Secretary, SIMI is exploring the possibility of targeting Shri Rushdie during his proposed visit. Separately, Saed Noorie, General Secretary, Raza Academy has announced a reward of Rs. one lakh to anyone who would hurl a slipper on Shri Rushdie during his visit to Jaipur.”

The MHA further advised that “in view of above, necessary adequate security arrangements to ensure protection to Shri Rushdie and for maintaining peace and communal harmony may be made.”

As per the standard practice, whenever any threat to any important personality is received, it is shared with the threatened person, so that he/she also takes necessary precautionary measures.

In this case also, the threat input was shared with organizers of Jaipur Literature Festival, who in turn, conveyed it to Mr. Rushdie.

Thereafter it was entirely Mr. Rushdie's own decision to cancel his visit based on the threat assessment.

Here it may be mentioned that the State Government had at no point of time, expressed any reservations about providing foolproof security to Mr. Rushdie. In fact all arrangements had been made to provide him full security at all times during his stay here.

The State Government deployed more than 500 policemen and officers in uniform and in plainclothes at the venue of JLF (Diggi Palace) so as to ensure that no untoward incident affects the security of Shri Rushdie or any other delegate.

The Editor of The Hindu replies:

G.S. Sandhu, writing on behalf of the Rajasthan government, says allegations, first reported in The Hindu, that local intelligence officials invented the plot to kill Salman Rushdie are untrue, and that these warnings were made on the basis of reports provided by “intelligence channels as also from the Union Home Ministry”. He also asserts that the State government took these threats “very seriously”.

For five reasons, his denial does not stand scrutiny: First, the Intelligence Bureau warning referred to by Mr. Sandhu itself says only two individuals were planning to “target” Mr Rushdie, not to stage an act of life-threatening violence against him. The specific targeting described in the IB report is a reward by a religious leader for throwing a shoe, which surely does not need terrorists or underworld hit-men, nor poses a threat to Mr. Rushdie's life.

Second, in a January 24 briefing to journalists in New Delhi, senior Union Home Ministry officials denied providing any intelligence warnings of a threat to Mr. Rushdie's life.

Third, the Rajasthan Police neither referred whatever warnings it received to the Maharashtra Police for action, nor took any itself. Nor did it question the two individuals purportedly holding out a threat to Mr. Rushdie's life. Neither would have been difficult to locate. Maulana Mohammed Saeed Noori can be located at his offices in Mumbai. Saqib Nachan, who has been acquitted on one terrorism case and is currently being tried in another, lives in Padgah village, 80 kilometres from Mumbai. It would be incredible, indeed, if the Rajasthan Police did not even seek to question two individuals it believed were involved in a plot to murder anyone, let alone one of the world's most eminent authors.

Fourth, the Maharashtra Police Director-General has stated that his force had no intimation of a threat to Mr. Rushdie's life. It is hard to believe that the Intelligence Bureau would have passed on the information only to Rajasthan, but not to the State where action could have been taken on the matter. Fifth, the Rajasthan government evidently did not take the trouble to convey these warnings to its own police force. Bhagwan Lal Soni, Commissioner of Police, Jaipur, has said “we have no clue who gave the underworld plot feedback”.

Even if the Rajasthan Government did not see it fit to discuss an assassination plot with the Maharashtra Police, it beggars belief that it would not have informed the city police.

None of this suggests that there was a credible threat to Mr. Rushdie's life, or that the Rajasthan government itself believed there was a serious threat.

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