And the fight rages on. When Salman Rushdie took to Twitter on the 20th January to announce his withdrawal from the Jaipur Literature Festival, he explained it was down to an assassination threat.
“Very sad not to be at jaipur. I was told bombay mafia don issued weapons to 2 hitmen to “eliminate” me. Will do video link instead. Damn.”
Cue further threats and damning Twitter responses. Rushdie is not known to hold back, but his anger was soon no longer directed at his critics, and instead at the Rajasthan police. Just two days later, Rushdie posted a new tweet:
” ‘Rajasthan police invented plot to keep away Rushdie’ I’ve investigated, & believe that I was indeed lied to. I am outraged and very angry.”
Rumours are running rife, the most popular of which is that the whole plot is linked to the government not wanting to upset Muslim voters ahead of elections.
Rushdie is the author of The Satanic Verses, a book that is banned in India and damned by many Muslims as heretic. And despite promising to appear via video link, this too was cancelled minutes before it was due to go ahead amid fear of violent protest.
Writers Amitava Kumar and Hari Kunzru were advised to leave the Festival after reading from the book – the authors have been advised to write a statement explaining they weren’t aware that it was a criminal offense to read from book.
Having never read the book myself, I find it hard to have a firm opinion on the matter… I think it’s wrong that a writer (or anyone) is denied the freedom of speech simply because it might offend some people. Everything anyone says is likely to cause offence to someone or other. I can see the other side of the story, though – a book is a powerful object and it can create hate as easily as it creates love, and any story written down could turn into truth if given the right chance. I don’t think I have the right to comment in honesty – but I think it’s sad that people are threatened with death for simply wanting to appear somewhere or read from something.
What do you think of the controversy?