Jaipur Literature Festival witnesses crushing of Free Speech

Salman Rushdie, the famous India-born-author has been under attack by Muslim protestors recently in India. His book “The Satanic Verses” was banned in India earlier on grounds that it contains derogatory references to Prophet Mohammed. Now even twenty four years later, he was forced to give the literature festival in Jaipur a miss. Rushdie had to cancel his scheduled visit to the Jaipur literature festival over security fears after Muslim groups protested against his visit over “The Satanic Verses”. Rushdie cited alleged threats from the underworld as the reason for cancelling his visit.

It was learnt that in the backdrop of protests from radical Islamists groups, the Rajasthan State government in a bid to ward-off any trouble persuaded the organisers of the festival to ask Rushdie to call-off his visit. But it was agreed that Rushdie would address the visitors via a video-link on the final day of the festival. His address was going to be about his work “Midnight’s Children” and his journey from childhood to his present position. This much awaited video addrress also had to be cancelled at the last minute over continued security fears. It has been reported that some muslim groups had gathered at the festival venue who threatened trouble and even bloodshed if the address by a “criminal writer” went ahead. So police withdrew permission for the address and organisers had to cancel it with a heavy heart.

There was huge outrage amongst the organisers of the festivals and the writers community and visitors alike. Everyone termed the entire episode as a direct assault on the freedom of speech.

“It was pretty shocking that not only my physical presence, even the screening of video image was unacceptable,” Rushdie said from London in a video conference interview to an Indian news channel. He called the entire situation a “black farce”.

It was indeed a sad episode for India, the largest democracy in the world.

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