Didn't break law by reading from Satanic Verses: Kunzru
Days after his reading from The Satanic Verses created a furore and resulted in a police case, author Hari Kunzru on Sunday said he did not believe he had broken the law by reading from a downloaded segment of the book and had no intentions to hurt the feelings of anybody.
Kunzru along with another author Amitava Kumar had created ripples at the festival and beyond by reading out from the banned book as a mark of their protest against author Salman Rushdie's forced withdrawal from the event. However, the act that was intended to be in defiance of fundamentalists resulted in a police case against them and forced them to walk out from the festival abruptly.
In a statement posted on his website, Kunzru even apologised if he had unintentionally hurt feelings or appeared to have caused disrespect to a religion. He said he was perturbed at the accusation of MP Asaduddin Owaisi that he was 'Islam-bashing under the guise of liberalism' and completely refuted it.
"I would like to reiterate that in taking this action I believed (and continue to believe) that I was not breaking the law, and had no interest in causing gratuitous offense. I apologise unreservedly to anyone who feels I have disrespected his or her faith," he wrote.
Kunzru left Jaipur early on Saturday morning, and left India the same day.
Image: Author Hari Kunzru left India on Saturday, a day after he read from Rushdie's book at the festival
'Wanted to demystify the book. It is, after all, just a book; not a bomb'
Kunzru and Amitava read out a few paragraphs from Rushdie's controversial work The Satanic Verses, from a print out taken from a downloaded copy on the book. It is an offence in India to possess a copy of the book and it is not available at bookstores, but enough pirated texts exist on the Internet for a person to easily obtain them.
Kunzru and Kumar were obstructed during their session by festival producer Sanjoy K Roy who told them not to read from the book. Soon after Kunzru and Kumar, two other authors -- Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Mishra -- followed suit.
"Our intention was not to offend anyone's religious sensibilities, but to give a voice to a writer who had been silenced by a death threat. Reading from another one of his books would have been meaningless. The Satanic Verses was the cause of the trouble, so The Satanic Verses it would have to be," he said.
"We did not choose passages which have been construed as blasphemous by Muslim opponents of the book -- this would have been pointless, as these passages have overshadowed the rest of the content of the novel, which concerns the relationship between faith and doubt, and contains much that has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. We wanted to demystify the book. It is, after all, just a book. Not a bomb. Not a knife or a gun," he wrote.
Image: The cover of The Satanic Verses
'Furore around Rushdie's visit is manipulation of religious sentiment'
He also said that he believed that the furore around the visit of Rushdie, who has often visited India without a fuss, was a "manufactured controversy" this time and was not unconnected with the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh.
The eruption, he said, was not spontaneous but an example of "manipulation of religious sentiment for political ends".
"We knew this little-read and much-burned book was banned in India, but it was our understanding that this meant it was a crime to publish, sell, or possess a copy. We knew it would be considered provocative to quote from it, but did not believe it was illegal," he said.
He said he was extremely angry over what had happened to Rushdie and felt it was important to show support for an author was has often misrepresented and caricatured by people who know little or nothing about his work.
He said the incident brought the Jaipur police commissioner to question them briefly and in him getting a legal advice that he should leave India immediately, as otherwise he held the risk of being arrested.