In what could further stoke the Salman Rushdie controversy, a section of authors at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday launched a campaign demanding immediate lifting of the 23-year-old ban on the controversial writer's book The Satanic Verses.
"We strongly urge the government to reconsider the ban on The Satanic Verses," read a petition presented by the authors led by Nilanjana Roy to Festival's co-director William Dalrymple.
The book by the India-born author was banned in the country in 1988 for allegedly having blasphemous content hurting the sentiments of Muslims.
The petition claimed that The Satanic Verses has not incited violence anywhere. Others have used the novel's existence to incite violence to suit their political ends, it said.
"Within India, in the 23 years since the ban, we have witnessed an erosion of respect for freedom of expression, as artists like M F Husain, Chandramuhun Srimantula, Jatin Das, and Balbir Krishan have been intimidated, and works of writers like Rohinton Mistry and A K Ramanujan have been withdrawn because of threats by groups claiming to be offended," the petition said.
India is one of the very few countries in the world where the ban stands, placing it alongside Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, Liberia and Papua New Guinea, among others, the petition said.
"We submit with respect that there is a democratic need to review and re-examine the circumstances that led to the original ban of the Verses in 1988, which have changed greatly over time," the petition said.
On Friday, four authors Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi had raised hackles by protest reading from the book after Rushdie cancelled his India visit to attend the festival citing threat to his life.