Following the cancellation of his proposed live video conference at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Tuesday, due to protests by the Muslim community, popular writer Salman Rushdie slammed the Indian government and religious extremists for preventing "free speech" in the country.
Rushdie came down heavily on the Indian politicians and the religious extremists for stopping the free expression of ideas at a literary festival.
"And now I find an India in which religious extremists can prevent free expression of ideas at a literary festival, in which the politicians are too, let's say, in bed with those groups to wish to oppose them for narrow electoral reasons, in which the police forces are unable to secure venues against demonstrators even when they know the demonstration is on its way," the controversial author said, during an interview with NDTV. He went on to say he felt sad for India, as he has been praising the country's commitment to secularism and liberty all his life.
"This decline in public standards, and in the liberty of ordinary Indian citizens to engage in discourse, to hear differing points of view, that's the thing that makes me saddest. Of course, I'm very sad not to be there, but, as I say, I am sadder on behalf of the country in which this is happening," he said.
"JLF Threat of violence by Muslim groups stifled free speech today. In a true democracy all get to speak, not just the ones making threats," he further added, on his Twitter page.
The organizers of the festival had earlier assured the authorities, after they expressed concern over the sensitive nature of the contents of the proposed video conference, the author would not break any laws and would not read out passages from his banned book "The Satanic Verses". Nevertheless, they were forced to cancel the video link, following eleventh-hour protests by the Jaipur-based Milli Council.
Ram Pratap Singh, the owner of the Diggi Palace where the Literature Festival is being held, said he decided to cancel the video conference because the protestors, who were inside the property, could have turned violent and harmed his property and family.