Lifestyle & Belief

Salman Rushdie to make first public appearance in India since death threats


Salman Rushdie, full name Ahmed Salman Rushdie.


Rafa Rivas

Salman Rushdie is due to speak at a conference in New Delhi this Friday, in what will be his first public appearance in India since death threats forced him to pull out of a literary festival there two months ago.

According to organizers of the India Today Conclave, Rushdie will give a one-hour talk entitled "The Liberty Verses: I am What I am and That's All That I am."

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The India Today media group would say only that the author would be "a presence" at the two-day conference, the Times of India reported, raising the possibility that Rushdie could make his speech via video link.

However, an unnamed spokeswoman told Agence France Presse that Rushdie would be attending in person.

The prize-winning author, whose 1988 novel The Satanic Verses remains banned in India for the insult it allegedly poses to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, withdrew from the Jaipur Literary Festival in January following rumors that Islamic extremists would attempt to assassinate him there. A replacement video link address was also cancelled following protests and death threats against the festival's organizers.

Rushdie later claimed that Indian police had invented the assassination story to convince him to cancel his planned visit, which came at a politically sensitive time for the governing Congress Party, shortly before an election in Uttar Pradesh. The state is India's most populous and home to a large number of Muslims, including members of the orthodox Darul Uloom Deoband Islamic seminary that first called for Rushdie to be barred from speaking in Jaipur.

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So far there have not been any protests against Rushdie's planned appearance this Friday, India Today editor Ashok Damodaran told Reuters.

The organizers were wise not to announce his talk too far ahead, said William Dalrymple, author and director of the Jaipur Literary Festival. "Our mistake at Jaipur was to announce his visit three weeks in advance, which gave everyone who opposed his visit time to mobilize."

The Deoband seminary was not aware of Rushdie's planned trip, but remained opposed to him entering India, vice-chancellor Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani told AFP. "We did not allow him to participate in the festival and our stand is the same. He is anti-Islam."

After the debacle in January, Rushdie vowed he would not be intimidated. "I will come to India many times, as I choose, to do what I will, and I will not allow these religious gangsters and their cronies in the government to prevent me," he told an interviewer in London.

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