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Rushdie’s video call cancelled amid threats
Vandana Shukla/TNS

Jaipur, January 24
Amid death threats to organisers and fears of violent protests by some Muslim groups, the much-anticipated televised speech by Salman Rushdie at Jaipur Literature Festival had to be cancelled minutes before it was scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Had the Rajasthan Government allowed Rushdie to attend the festival, the author would have been present at the event for a day. But thanks to the way it handled the entire situation, Rushdie continued to hog the limelight during the entire festival, and that too by not even being physically present.

On Monday, when it was learnt that Rushdie would address a video-conference on the last day of the festival (January 24), some local Muslim bodies approached the organisers to stop the proposed programme. They also gave written presentation to the government to ask the organisers to clarify the names of the panellists and the topic of the conference. The government asked the organisers to obtain permission before going ahead with the conference on Tuesday. Today, the organisers called a press conference to say that the government has given a permission to go ahead with the conference at 3.45 pm. However, hardly an hour had passed, when some members of the Jamat-e-Islami gathered at the venue, Diggi Palace, demanding ban on Rushdie’s video-address of Rushdie, titled ‘Midnight Children.’

A little later, several youths gathered outside the venue shouting slogans and threatened to burn the public property if the event was not cancelled. With the circus of bigotry going on, the scheduled session on ‘Reconstructing Rumi’ was cancelled to make room for Rushdie’s video address.

While leaders of the Jamat-e-Islami and their followers assembled at one side of the Front Lawns, people on the other side waited for the event to begin. An hour later, Ram Pratap Singh, the owner of Diggi Palace, made an announcement from the stage that under threat of violence from certain groups, he is forced to cancel the video address.

An emotionally charged Sanjoy Roy, producer, JLF, announced that he was pained and humiliated by this ‘idiotic decision’. “We have been bullied. It is very sad that we have to close a festival that celebrates creative voices in this way. All of us feel hurt and disgraced,” said Roy.

Minutes later, one could see leaders of protesting groups assembling at one corner of the lawn and writing autographs for their followers, just the way writers had been doing through the festival.

Salim Engineer, National Secretary, Jamat-e-Islamia Hind, gave his follower an autograph, which read “Freedom with Responsibility”. 





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