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No Rushdie video conference without prior permission: Raj govt

In a new twist to the Salman Rushdie controversy, Rajasthan government today said it would not allow the controversial author's proposed video link address to the Jaipur Literature Festival without prior permission.

The development came a day after the India-born author accused the Rajasthan police of lying about a plot to eliminate him to keep him away from the Festival, a charge dismissed by the state government which said Intelligence Bureau had given the inputs and it was not concocted.

A senior Rajasthan government official told PTI that they were examining the matter and no permission has been sought by the organisers to arrange any video conferencing of Rushdie so far. The official said that the government "would not allow this without a prior permission".


Salman Rushdie/AFP

Rushdie, who had called off his visit to the festival last week citing threat to his life, was supposed to address via video link on the last day of the festival tomorrow but after a series of controversial developments, even that prospect appears to be hanging in balance.

Asked if the video-link address was still on, festival producer Sanjoy K Roy appeared ambivalent. "As of now, according to what I know, it is. No official has spoken to us so far raising objection," he said.

The festival has been clouded by controversy ever since Rushdie's visit was announced sparking protests.

After the visit was cancelled, four writers staged a protest reading from his banned book The Satanic Verses. The four writers too had to opt out of the festival after legal issues erupted and the organisers distanced themselves from the authors.

"Very sad not to be at Jaipur. I was told Bombay mafia don issued weapons to two hit men to 'eliminate' me. Will do video link instead. Damn," Rushdie had tweeted on January 20 after announcing through a statement the cancellation of his visit.

Additional Police Commissioner Biju George Josheph said that the organisers have not sought any permission for video conferencing and nothing will be done without prior permission of the state government.

Muslim organisations, which had strongly opposed Rushdie's visit to Jaipur, appeared divided over the possibility of a video link address, with some saying there was no reason to oppose it, while others wanted to watch out for any objectionable matter.

"We spoke to organisers who told us that the conference would take place tomorrow while on the other hand, police and administration said that they will not let them go ahead without proper permission from the state government," said Mohammad Saleem Engineer, National Secretary, Jamaat-e-Islam-e Hind, who is present at the festival as a delegate.

However, he said, his group and others consider Rushdie "a criminal" and may resort to democratic and peaceful protest, if "he states something objectionable and no action is taken". "We do not have any problem with the video conferencing per se. But if something unlawful is done through that, there are law agencies to take care about it," he said.

State secretary of All India Milli Council, Abdul Latif, said, "First of all, I do not think that such activity will take place. But if it is finalised then we will discuss the issue among our people and take decision accordingly."

Another group 'Muslim Ekta Manch' which is Ajmer-based, raised objection to the proposed video conferencing and said they will protest against it.

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