Reading from the Satanic Verses in Jaipur (2012)
On Friday, over lunch, I heard the news that Salman Rushdie would not be attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. His visit had been in doubt for some time. Initially, we had been scheduled to have a conversation on stage that afternoon, but since Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the head of the Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband, had called for him to be prevented from entering India, the festival organizers had been fighting a storm of manufactured controversy, not unconnected with the upcoming Uttar Pradesh state elections. Salman has been visiting India without incident for many years, and spoke at the JLF in 2007. Clearly, the sudden eruption of righteous indignation at his presence was not spontaneous. The manipulation of religious sentiment for political ends has a long history in India, and this was merely a particularly cynical example of a traditional election-time activity.