It’s an a test of the pen versus the sword. In the desert Indian town of Jaipur, poets from Delhi protest assassins from the Mumbai underworld. Under contention: author Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses.”
On Thursday, Rushdie canceled his plan to attend the popular Jaipur Literary Festival, a gathering of the litterati of India. The author said that he had received information that assassins targeting him may have been sent to Jaipur. Rushdie has lived with death threats ever since Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini called for the author’s execution in 1989 for his portrayal of the prophet Muhammad in the book.
To show support for Rushdie and protest the threats of execution, a small group of Indian authors has gathered in Jaipur and began to read the book out loud: Jeet Thayil, Ruchir Joshi, Amitava Kumar and Hari Kunzru. Attendees said via Twitter that the organziers of the festival asked them to stop but that the authors continued to read.
Others suggested buying the book as protest. Though the book is not available in India in bookstores, the editor of Mint newspaper Sukumar Ranganathan wrote on Twitter, “You do know that the book that cannot be named in India is available on the Kindle. Buy. I did. As a sign of solidarity.”
Rushdie said on Twitter that he doubted the veracity of the assassination attempt. After Muslim clerics demanded the Indian government ban the author from the event, The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer reported:
“The government, scared of alienating Muslim voters ahead of important state elections next month, wavered, unwilling to welcome Rushdie and guarantee his security but equally reluctant to bar the Indian-born British author completely. In the end, unnamed intelligence officials apparently warned him off.”