An angry Salman Rushdie yesterday accused the Rajasthan police of concocting a supposed death threat to keep him away from the Jaipur Literature Festival. "I've investigated, and believe I was indeed lied to. I am outraged and very angry," Rushdie posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.
He added that he did not know who gave the orders to police to come up with the lie. "Don't know... Yes, I guess the same police who want to arrest Hari, Amitava, Jeet and Ruchir. Disgusting," wrote the controversial writer.
Authors Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi read passages from Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" on the first day of the festival, after Rushdie pulled out of the event citing threats to him. Rajasthan Police, refusing to comment on the issue, have sought a copy of the video from the organisers of the reading session, a source said.
'It is not true'
However, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said Rushdie's charges were false. "It is not true. The government had made all arrangements for his security because it was our duty. If we get an advisory from the centre about a threat to the life of a certain person then we have to make the arrangements for his security," Gehlot said.
Gehlot said Rushdie was a Person of Indian Origin and did not require a visa to come to India. "But if there is some threat to his life due to anger among a group of people and if feel that could affect law and order, then we have to see," he added.
Meanwhile, Muslim groups have threatened to move the court against the four writers for reading out excerpts from "The Satanic Verses", which is banned in India.
Rajasthan Police have stepped up security at the Diggi Palace, the venue of the five-day literature festival that concludes tomorrow.
Revoke ban on The Satanic Verses
A group of independent writers and artists presented a petition supporting the right of all artists and writers to freedom of expression and revoking of the ban on Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.
"We strongly urge the government to reconsider the 23-year-old ban of the Satanic Verses," said the petition said, presented to the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival's co-director William Dalrymple. The book has not incited violence anywhere; others have used the novel's existence to incite violence to suit their political ends.
"Within India, in the 23 years since the ban, we have witnessed an erosion of respect for freedom of expression, as artists like MF Husain, Chandramuhun Srimantula, Jatin Das, and Balbir Krishan have been intimidated, and works of writers like Rohinton Mistry and AK Ramanujan have been withdrawn because of threats by groups claiming to be offended," the petition said.