The Salman Rushdie row refused to die down on Sunday with a police complaint being filed against the four authors who read out portions from the controversial author's banned book Satanic Verses at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
The four authors, Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Rushir Joshi, who struck a defiant note by reading from the banned book on Friday after Rushdie called off his visit citing death threats, opted out of the five-day meet. The festival organisers, who had issued a strong statement distancing themselves from the actions of the four authors, on Sunday dismissed reports which said the writers have been forced to leave. "They were not asked to leave," festival organiser Namita Gokhale clarified.
"We received a complaint which is being examined. It is a complaint and no FIR has been lodged so far," said A Mohammad, SHO of Ashok Nagar police station. The complainant Ashok Kumar has demanded action against the authors.
While crowd-puller TV mogul Oprah Winfrey was addressing a session, high drama was witnessed in a separate wing with publisher S Anand lashing out at the organisers for not supporting Rushdie and the four authors. To emphasise his point, Anand quoted from Rushdie "What kind of idea are you" which led to applause from the audience. He said, "We have been discussing about books....there are other writers and authors like Salman Rushdie. There is Oprah and whatever happens there is no excuse to say this controversy should shut down our voices."
Gokhale intervened to say, "It was hurtful of Anand who has been coming here for many years to suggest that we have asked the four authors to leave.
I want to explain that what is most hurtful is that the festival has over 265 authors and writers who are being sidelined due to this ...the police and the state government have been cooperating with us... we have the responsibility to ensure the safety of those who are attending the festival," said Gokhale. She said there were some sections of people who "were spreading the wrong idea" and requested "everyone to behave responsibly".
Pakistani Author Mohammad Haneef also came out in support of Rushdie. "I find it quite bizarre. This is the world's biggest democracy, the most multi-cultural society you can have and I think it's sad that Rushdie has not been able to come. I think it's the state's basic role to provide security to its citizens and visitors and to me it seems the state has failed in its most basic duty," he said.
A day after his comments Salman Rusdhie's writings made headlines, popular author Chetan Bhagat on Sunday said the Midnight's Children author was a hero for him as well but he does not believe in using the medium of literature to hurt people's sentiments. "It is not about myself verses Rushdie, there is no question," shot out the author when asked to comment on the issue yet again on the sidelines of the festival.
"I am a humble writer. I cannot match up to him. He won the Booker the year I was born," Bhagat said. But, at the same time he reiterated his stand that religious sentiments in India have to be respected.
The community of authors in Jaipur appeared divided over the controversy with some supporting the four authors and others advocating restraint.
Bhagat was one of the few who spoke strongly against promoting Rushdie's controversial writings. "He is a hero as far as his others writings are concerned, but writing something that attacks somebody's god is not the right thing to do. I would not make him a hero on that count," he said while responding to questions.