Government had no hand in Rushdie calling off visit: Congress


    New Delhi, (IANS) The Congress Friday said the government had no role in acclaimed author Salman Rushdie deciding to call off his visit to the Jaipur Literary Festival and said it was his “individual” decision.

    Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party and the government “stand steadfast in their absolute commitment to freedom of speech and expression”.

    “As of today the decision of the government stands that by no means Shri Salman Rushdie be banned, stopped, prohibited or limited from coming to India. Merely because different people have given inputs about better preparedness of law and order should not in any manner mean that government attempted in remote manner to try to ban,” Singhvi said.

    Singhvi, however, disapproved of plans of some writers to read out Rushdie’s banned book “The Satanic Verses” at the venue, saying if some people resort to such acts either as “an attention seeking exercise” or with the aim to create a provocative atmosphere, the law will take its own course.

    Replying to questions, Singhvi said the book stands banned in India. “If these gentlemen now want to read it, obviously law will have to take its own course,” Singhvi said.

    He said if an individual author has been on the sensitive list for a long time and he himself feels about his security, “you and I must respect his right not to take any chance with his life and liberty.”

    “Please don’t attribute it to the Government of India. Please don’t attribute it to the Congress party,” Singhvi said.

    Singhvi said despite best of security any person was entitled to take decision that he would not like to jeopardize or endanger himself.

    “That is all that has happened. Till now the government has not changed its official decision which was announced some time ago that there is no restriction on his travelling,” Singhvi added.

    Rushdie called off his visit to the Jaipur Literary Festival after intelligence sources told him that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld were out to kill him.