Jaipur: Outrage and resentment were the dominant emotions on the first day of the Jaipur Literature Festival here on Friday as writers, intellectuals and fans cried foul over Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie calling off his visit in view of threat to his life following protests by Islamic groups opposed to his visit.
A Pakistan-based writer Mohammed Hanif, the author of The Case of Exploding Mangoes and The Lady of Alice Bhatti, said the “controversy over the The Satanic Verses has been blown out of proportion and it should not have happened”. Addressing the media, writer William Dalrymple said “the whole episode was the result of Chinese whispers.”
“At least 262 authors are here to enjoy. Salman is a writer of enormous depth. It is a great tragedy that he is not here,” Dalrymple said as writer Namita Gokhale said she was “personally very disappointed that Salman Rushdie was not coming”.
“I hope and believe that we will have him here another year,” Gokhale said.
Eminent poet and lyricist Gulzar, who was at the festival, said, “It is wrong to muzzle free speech”. “Whoever is responsible for this politics will pay. I regret that Rushdie could not come to the festival,” the lyricist said.
Novelist and playwright Kiran Nagarkar, who has also faced political gag for his play The Bedtime Story, lamented “the constraints on the freedom of speech in a democracy”. “I know the feeling,” the writer said.