Author Salman Rushdie called off his visit to Jaipur Litfest citing intelligence reports which indicate a threat to his life. But how credible are those reports, asks Shafey Danish.
It is tedious to write on Salman Rushdie especially since it gives the writer much attention for things other than his writing. In a perfect world, the Salman Rushdie of Fury would have faded into the sort of oblivion that actors and actresses fade into when they are not doing movies. Just look at Megan Fox. But some contrive to remain in the news, if not for their movies then for other things, just look at Veena Mallick (is she an actor at all?).
Rushdie has pulled a leaf out of the book of those same actors and actresses, and contrives to remain in the news by his comments, his run-ins with social media, and his relationships. Part of the blame lies which the media, which dutifully reports all that Rushdie does, and part of it lies with the Muslims. They simply would not let the man alone. The Darul Uloom Deoband had to go and issue a statement saying that they would rather the government did not allow the author into the country. Don’t give him a visa, the Darul Uloom Vice Chancellor said. Which turned out to be a bit uninformed because Rushdie does not need a visa to travel to India. He is a designated PIO (Person of Indian Origin) and can come and go pretty much as he pleases. All this predictably kicked up a media fest, which resulted in more attention for Mr Rushdie.
The other side of the problem lies with the liberals of our country who feel it something of a badge of courage, and honor to defend him against the fundamentalist. Rushdie in their rendering, becomes a test case – if you support him, your liberal credentials are intact, if you don’t you are a fire eating fundamentalist.
The government meanwhile has to do a tight rope walk to pander to both the sides. Thus, hwile Salman Khursheed let it be known that the central government would do absolutely nothing to stop Rushdie’s visit, the Congress govt at Rajasthan made sure that there are enough ‘security concerns’ to keep Rushdie away. The concerns do seem a little far-fetched. SIMI has revived itself to attack Rushdie, one report allegedly said. Hired assassins were on their way to kill Rushdie, sent by the Mumbai underworld. If true, this would be the first time that the underworld has indicated an interest in killing Rushdie. The last time Rushdie was in India, in Mumbai itself they had shown no inclination to kill off the man. And it is yet to be proved in the court that SIMI is indeed a terrorist organization, or has indulged in any of the acts attributed to it mostly by stories leaked in the media. In fact the ban would now have been lifted, following a Delhi High Court order, if the Supreme Court had not put a stay on the order itself. Its chief at the time the organization was banned is out on bail and has been acquitted in 2 of the four cases against him. Also, the organization does not exist anymore, years of being banned has effectively finished it off.
So Rushdie is being hunted by an organization that does not exist, and by assassins who showed no tendency to kill him the last time around. Makes one wonder, if this was the Congress’ way of killing the snake without breaking the stick.
Rushdie himself alluded to this in his statement.
“I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to ‘eliminate’ me,” Salman Rushdie said in a statement read out at the festival.
“While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience and to my fellow writers,” he added.
“I will therefore not travel to Jaipur as planned.” The matter has become a little even stranger with the Mumbai police denying on Saturday that they had received any information regarding a threat to Rushdie’s life from Mumbai’s underworld. The author will now address the festival through a video link, which is probably just as well.
With SIMI and the underworld, you never know.