Salman Rushdie var nok en gang invitert til den internasjonale litteraturfestivalen i Jaipur, og nok en gang ble arrangørene tvunget til å avlyse pga trusler.
Det var det prestisjetunge Darul Uloom Deoband-seminaret som advarte mot at Rushdie fikk slippe til på en offentlig scene. Det religiøse senteret sa Rushdie aldri vil bli tilgitt for «Sataniske vers». Boken er fortsatt forbudt i India.
Men arrangørene hadde planer i reserve: Rushdie kunne opptre på videolink. Det krevde ingen sikkerhetsklarering av myndighetene. Trodde man. Men noen minutter før Rushdie skulle på, ble det uro blant publikum. Islamister hadde kommet inn som delegater, og tvang andre publikummere til å vike plassene sine.
The author had originally been due to appear in person as the festival’s headline author along with such names as Sir David Hare, Tom Stoppard and Oprah Winfrey, but was forced to delay after India’s most influential Islamic seminary called on the government to stop him entering the country. The Darul Uloom Deoband said he could never be forgiven for his ‘blasphemous’ 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, which remains banned in India and throughout the Muslim world. Plans for him to appear towards the end of the festival were also abandoned after dubious police intelligence reports claimed a team of hired assassins were travelling to Jaipur to kill him. The organisers’ final fallback plan was for Sir Salman to appear by a videolink for a discussion on his celebrated novel Midnight’s Children, which was named the best Booker prize winner of the last 40 years…
According to eyewitnesses, a group of around 50 Muslim men had infiltrated the crowd shortly before the session was due to begin and were intimidating members of the audience to give up their seats. Organisers were said to bewildered over how they managed to get past a bar code security pass system and hundreds of police. Jaipur’s police commissioner B. L Soni said protesters had earlier registered as delegates and were present inside in significant numbers.
Rushdie selv tror myndighetene viste seg så ettergivende av hensyn til muslimske stemmer i det forestående deltstatsvalget.
Commentators said his forced withdrawal from the festival was a «black stain» on India’s reputation as the world’s largest democracy, while one adviser said it had raised serious questions over the festival’s future. «This is a watershed moment for the festival. How can it go forward and where can it go forward? It is an issue now and must be resolved. They have built a huge festival and it is terrible to see it jeopardised but these are serious issues,» David Godwin, one of Britain’s top literary agents told The Daily Telegraph.