The last time he was at the Jaipur Literature Festival,Salman Rushdie was barely noticed. He spent three days in the city in 2007,and faced no protests.
Some of the protesters this time agree that few had known about that visit. The opposition began with the Darul Uloom Deoband in UP before being taken up in Rajasthan,where the protests were spearheaded by Amin Pathan,chairperson for the BJPs minority morcha,and joined by at least 18 organisations.
Pathan said the 2007 visit,when the BJP was in power,was not publicised. He came quietly,stayed for two days and left and few know of his presence, Pathan said. The government had made no mention about him either. This government has offered him protection. He added that it was because of the media that people realised Rushdie had been invited.
Sajid Mohammed of the Rajasthan Muslim Manch agreed. In 2007 he slipped in unnoticed. Had we known he was coming,we would have protested then as well, Mohammed said.
Salim Engineer of the Jamait-e-Islami Hind echoed,In 2007,there was no news about Rushdie. This time the media had broadcast the news well before.
But Muzaffar Bharati,who holds a primary membership in the Indian National Congress,said there had been protests last time,too,but stifled by the government. There were protests last time,but the government stamped it down. We have been opposing Rushdie since he wrote the blasphemous book.
Does God exist?
The festival closed on Tuesday with the final session,The House believes man has replaced God,renewing the debate around freedom of expression. Swami Agnivesh,Pakistani writer Qaisra Shahraz and Salim Engineer staunchly defended the existence of God and their dependence on faith. Richard Dawkins,Suhel Seth and Aruna Roy said little evidence exists of a supreme being or beings. The panel included Javed Akhtar and Ashok Vajpayee.
At the end,moderator Sanjoy Roy took an audience poll on Gods existence. The voice-vote indicated the non-believers won.