After much controversy first over his presence and then his absence at the Jaipur Literature Festival, it's now unclear if the writer will be allowed to participate on the fifth and final day of the event via a video link. Sources in the government and police say that concerns about law and order may be used to pull the plug on the video chat.
Organiser Sanjoy Roy told NDTV, "The government has asked us how long the session will be, the time and broad details of video link. We have provided them. Whatever will be done , will be done in spirit of law. Rushdie will be discussing his book Midnight's Children. We are waiting for a final decision from the government."
Officially the government remains tight-lipped. "We are examining all aspects of this issue and we will decide, " said Virendra Beniwal, Rajasthan's Home Minister. (Read: 'SIMI threat to Rushdie')
But it looks like the controversy will not be resolved easily with
Muslim groups in the state planning to protest if Mr Rushdie says
anything offensive during the video link.
"In principle we don't have any objection to video conferencing, but if
he says something that is against the law or says something to provoke
someone, we will also use our democratic right to protest," said
Professor Salim Engineer, Secretary, Jamat-e-Islami Hind.
The original controversy over Mr Rushdie's attendance, created by Muslim clerics who warned of protests against him, has spawned many spin-offs.
In addition to the uncertainty over his video link, at least six complaints have been filed in different magisterial courts in Jaipur, Ajmer and Hyderabad - by people including members of the BJP and the Congress - against Sanjoy Roy, the main organiser of the festival, and four authors - Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi. They read excerpts from Mr Rushdie's book, The Satanic Verses, as a form of protest over the weekend.
The book, published in 1988, remains banned in India. Courts will hear the complaints tomorrow. No police cases have been registered so far.
Muslim clerics threatened protests against Mr Rushdie. On Friday, the writer cited intelligence alerts while announcing that he had to drop out of the festival because he had been warned of "paid assassins" who had been commissioned to target him. Yesterday, Mr Rushdie has said he was misled deliberately by the Rajasthan Police into believing that his visit to Jaipur would be dangerous.
Several writers and others have criticised the government for its weak stand on Mr Rushdie's visit to Jaipur. Critics accuse the government and other political parties of being unwilling to provoke criticism from Muslim clerics and hardliners ahead of the UP elections, where Muslims form 18 per cent of the population and will play a key role in deciding who forms the next government.
Meanwhile, dismissing Mr Rushdie's charge that the state police had invented a "plot" to keep him away from the Literature Festival, the Rajasthan government has said it had received intelligence inputs that the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was planning to target him during the festival.
"Salman Rushdie's allegation on Rajasthan police is completely baseless. The state government had received reactions and inputs from intelligence agencies, individuals and organisations in this regard," Principal Secretary (Home) G S Sandhu said in a statement.