Indian MP demands arrest of writers reading banned novel at literature festival

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Indian Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi is demanding the arrest of writers who read excerpts from banned novel The Satanic Verses at the Jaipur Literature Festival. "Reading from a banned book is a deliberate provocation and proof that the festival is a forum for Islam-bashing," Owaisi said.

Rushdie was due to attend the festival but backed out, alleging death threats from the Mumbai underworld. British writer Hari Kunzru and many others read short passages from the book to support Rushdie despite efforts to stop them. Kunzru said on Twitter he sought "to defy bigots".

Owaisi wants police to act under sections 153 A and 295 A of the Indian Penal code, which deal with religious matters. Organisers of the event said they had no idea that Kunzru and others would act as they did. They added that any illegal action at the festival would not be entertained.

The Satanic Verses is controversial and is condemned by the Islamic community. Rushdie lived in hiding for years following the then Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, calling for his death soon after the book's publication.