Rushdie pulls out of Literary Fest

The author of Midnight's Children says intelligence sources have told him that assassins from the Mumbai underworld were out to eliminate him

Day One of the country's largest literary festival was met with the announcement that author Salman Rushdie had pulled out of the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival. A statement released by the author read, "I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to 'eliminate' me."

All ears: Visitors listen to Oscar Pujol (left), Gurcharan Das (centre) and
Alex Watson (right) as they discuss the topic 'The Argumentive Indian
in Ancient India'. Pics/AFP

The author added that while he had doubts about the accuracy of the information that "it would be irresponsible of me to come to the Festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience, and to my fellow writers. I will therefore not travel to Jaipur as planned."

Not welcome: A man shouts anti-Rushdie slogans after Friday prayers.
The British novelist's participation was opposed by several Muslim groups

Festival highlights
Over 100 events have been lined up over the next four days. Highlights of the festival include American chat show queen Oprah Winfrey in conversation with TV journalist Barkha Dutt on Sunday and the announcement of the winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2012, which will be announced this evening (Saturday).

Chai time: A vendor serves tea in earthen cups to visitors who attended
the first day of the event. The five-day festival ends on Tuesday night

The five-day festival ends on Tuesday night with a discussion on the relationship between God and man. Panelists include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, writer and lyricist Javed Akhtar and experimental psychologist Steven Pinker.

Among some of the better known names that dominated yesterday's schedule were British-Indian novelist Hari Kunzru, lyricist Gulzar, theatreperson Girish Karnad, Pakistani writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and political magazine Tehelka's editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal.

We speak the truth
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal knew that he was treading shaky ground the minute he used 'politician' and 'truth' in the same sentence. Perhaps that's why he chose to begin his talk with the disclaimer: "Politicians are often ascribed with the ability of not telling the truth."

The elaborate word play was an attempt to serve as a reminder to his audience that the man in front of them was more than just Sibal, the politician; he was also Sibal, the poet. Sibal was present to promote an anthology of his poems, having released his last anthology in 200, titled I Witness.

During the first ten minutes of the scheduled hour-long talk titled 'The Truth of Poetry and the Truth of Politics', the audience would be introduced to the several meanings of 'truth' and, more importantly, the business of concealing truths.
Poets too, we were told, were often concealers of truth, and therefore not unlike politicians, when they were faced with the task of choosing to reveal or not reveal themselves through their work.

This was followed by 'Imagining India, Interpreting It', which featured Tarun Tejpal in conversation with Professor of politics Sunil Khilnani.

Organisers stop reading of The Satanic Verses
The organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival stopped novelist Hari Kunzru from reading excerpts from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, saying they could face police action. The novelist was reading out excerpts from the book which he described as a "study in doubt" when the organisers stepped in towards the end of the session, 'Of Gods and Men', to stop him and Amitav Kumar.

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