Jaipur Literature Festival starts today, suspense over Rushdie's participation continues
Jaipur: As Jaipur gets set to stage the annual Literature Festival from today, the suspense over Salman Rushdie's participation continues to dominate the show.
Jaipur's literature festival is billed as Asia's finest and over 200 of the world's best authors will be here over the next five days of the festival. But the buzz is all about Mr Rushdie, whose name does not figure on the festival's programme with many radical Muslim groups opposed to his entry into the country over his book.
The author is facing severe opposition to his visit to India due to his controversial 1988 book, The Satanic Verses, which had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to its alleged blasphemous content.
There is heightened security at the Diggi Palace, where the festival is being held, with sniffer dogs and CCTV cameras all around along with a three-layered frisking process. And all this due to the storm over Mr Rushdie's participation.
"We were told initially that probably he will come but we have no confirmation of his plans now. But we are keeping our security arrangements keeping in view the overall threat perception," says Biju Josef, DIG, Jaipur.
Organisers are tight-lipped about Mr Rushdie's final plans. But many of the glitterati, now in Jaipur, slam the threats to Mr Rushdie and the government's inept handling of the row as an attack on artistic freedom.
"If people don't like what Rushdie has written they are free to condemn him but I don't think anyone has the right to ban him. I feel that if he wants to attend this literary festival as one of the finest authors in the world, he should have every right to do so and the govt must ensure his security," says Kabir Bedi, actor and regular Host for Jaipur Litfest Awards.
While the Rushdie row simmers, a range of literary delights are on the festival menu. Among the coming stalwarts are Tom Stoppard and Michael Ondaatje and themes this year range from Bhakti poetry to the Arab Spring. But a unique attraction will be a session with iconic chat show host Oprah Winfery.
"Oprah's role in reviving the reading habit and what she's done for books is so salutary that we are honoured and delighted that she's coming here," says Namita Gokhale, Director, Jaipur Lit fest.
Though some of the world's finest authors will be on show, given the suspense over Salman Rushdie, an air of tension and uncertainty hangs over this literary extravaganza.