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Salman Rushdie: Police lied to me about threat to my life

By Sara Sidner and Moni Basu, CNN
updated 5:27 AM EST, Sun January 22, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rushdie: "I am outraged and very angry"
  • The author blames the police for misleading him
  • He was supposed to have been a speaker at a major Indian literary festival
  • Other writers decry his absence and call it a blow to Indian democracy

Jaipur, India (CNN) -- Author Salman Rushdie now believes police lied to him about a threat to his life to keep him away from India's largest literary festival.

"Rajasthan police invented plot to keep away Rushdie' I've investigated, & believe that I was indeed lied to. I am outraged and very angry," the Mumbai-born author of "The Satanic Verses" said in a post on his verified Twitter account late Saturday.

A verified account is one which Twitter officials have confirmed as belonging to the person who claims to own it.

Rushdie then linked to a story in The Hindu newspaper, which attributed the information to "two highly placed police sources" that it did not name.

In response to a follower who asked the author who in the police force is to blame, Rushdie tweeted, "Don't know who gave orders. And yes I guess the same police who want to arrest Hari, Amitava, Jeet and Ruchir. Disgusting."

Rushdie was referring to Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi -- four writers who read excerpts from his banned book to protest his absence at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday.

At least one lawmaker has demanded the arrest of the writers who read from the book.

CNN was not able to reach Rushdie and it was seeking comment from Rajashthan police.

"The Satanic Verses" was released more than a quarter century ago, but it continues to hound the celebrated author.

Rushdie canceled his appearance at the festival after he was informed of objections from hard-line Muslims and a threat of assassination.

"I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to 'eliminate' me," Rushdie said in a written statement last week.

"While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience, and to my fellow writers. I will therefore not travel to Jaipur as planned."

Rushdie said he would appear on video-link instead. "Believe me, I am sorry not to be there in person," he said.

Rushdie attended the Jaipur festival without any hullaballoo in 2007.

Even before the threats Friday, the festival was abuzz in controversy over Rushdie's attendance.

Earlier in the week, the Islamist seminary Darul Uloom Deoband called again for a ban on Rushdie in India because he had not apologized for "The Satanic Verses," which earned him a death sentence in a fatwa from Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, the year after the book was published.

Abul Qasim Nomani, the vice chancellor of the religious school, insisted that Rushdie be denied a visa. However, as a person of Indian origin, Rushdie does not require a visa to travel to India.

The author has become a political pawn in India, where the Muslim vote will play a key role in upcoming state elections, especially in populous Uttar Pradesh, where the Deobandis are based. India is home to about 240 million Muslims.

"The Satanic Verses," which some Muslims found sacrilegious, is banned in the country. Rushdie spent a decade under British protection after the fatwa was issued against him.

Rushdie had been listed on the festival's schedule of events for Friday and Saturday but his name was taken off after the protests.

"I feel depressed," Indian playwright Girish Karnad told CNN sister network CNN-IBN. "I mean, what is happening to this country? We are supposed to have a liberal tradition."

Karnad said that with Rushdie's book already banned, what is the point now of hounding him?

"Suddenly because of some election, some group gets up and says we can't have him?" Karnad said. "The point is that he feels threatened. In any open society a man should not feel threatened."

The festival opened Friday with a bevy of big names, among them Michael Ondaatje, Vikram Seth and Oprah Winfrey.

Kunzru, the author, said he had an obligation to support Rushdie's right to be heard.

"I think we are all united in believing this is a bleak day for India, that this is a very bleak day for Indian literature," he told CNN-IBN. "Freedom of speech is the very foundation of a free society and a democracy and this is a blow against that. It's Rushdie today. It could be any of us tomorrow."

CNN's Sara Sidner reported from Jaipur, India, and Moni Basu from Atlanta. CNN's Sumnima Udas contributed to this report.

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