This Article is From Mar 18, 2012

Salman Rushdie takes on Imran Khan over 'immeasurable hurt'

New Delhi: Controversial author Salman Rushdie on Saturday hit out at Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, saying the former cricket captain was 'scared' of facing his 'bouncers'. Mr Khan, who is the founder of the political outfit Tehreek-e-Insaf, withdrew from the conclave two days ago, saying "he did not dream of being seen with Rushdie for the immeasurable hurt he has caused to Muslims".

"Imran is afraid of facing my bouncers. Imran knew that he would share the stage with me," the Booker Prize winning writer said at the India Today 2012 conclave in the capital.

Mr Rushdie, who returned two months after he vowed on Indian television that he would come back to India after being forced to skip the the Jaipur Literature Festival in January, said he had "not caused immeasurable harm to Mulsims".

"If you want to placate mullahs, don't leave a paper trail. Imran said I caused immeasurable hurt to Muslims. In real world, immeasurable hurt is caused by terrorists based in Pakistan who attack countries like India. Imran wants us to talk to lashkar," said Mr Rushdie. (Read: Highlights of Salman Rushdie's speech)

However, Tehreek-e-Insaf reacted strongly to Mr Rushdie's comments, saying the author had hurt Muslims all over the world and Imran Khan only displayed his 'disgust' by not sharing the stage with him.

"I think Mr Rushdhie confuses disgust with fear. He doesn't realise that the Muslims over the world have been hurt by his writings and what them have for him is disgust and contempt. Nobody is scared of him. And Mr Imran Khan just registered his disgust. He needs to realise how much hurt he has caused to Muslims," Mr Shafqat Mehmood, Information Secretary, Tehreek-e-Insaf told NDTV.

The author of the controversial "The Satanic Verses", which has been banned in India, poked fun at the Pakistan leader in the function, by taking a dig at Mr Khan's 'colourful' past.

"I would place a substantial bet that he has not read it (The Satanic Verses). When Imran was a playboy in London, he was called 'Im the dim'. Imran may have been born again. He will have to be judged by this (the new Imran). Those of us who knew the young Imran don't remember him like this," Mr Rushdie said.

Earlier, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav withdrew their participation from the Conclave.

Mr Rushdie said that it was 'cowardice' on their part and he had expected better from young leaders like Mr Abdullah and Mr Yadav. (Read)

He also slammed the Congress, suggesting that his presence in Jaipur two months ago was blocked because of "useless electoral calculations" and told Rahul Gandhi that "it did not work".

Mr Rushdie said blocking his presence in Jaipur "led the Congress party down the road" in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

"What happened there is not Deobandi bigotry... It was pretty useless electoral calculations. It did not work, Rahul (Gandhi)."

He suggested that this "led to the debacle" of Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

"Indian electorate is smarter than these politicians... People can be whipped as in Jaipur Literary Festival," Mr Rushdie said.