January 24, 2012

Authors charged with “intent to cause riot” for reading from Satanic Verses at Jaipur Festival


“At least half-a-dozen court cases have been filed against four authors and three organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival where extracts from Salman Rushdie‘s banned book The Satanic Verses were publicly read on January 20,” according to this report in the Times of India. 

Among those being charged with “wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot,” among other charges, are authors Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi, and festival organizers Sanjoy Roy, Namita Gokhale, William Dalrymple.

As reported earlier on Mobylives, Rushdie’s planned attendance at the Jaipur festival outraged many Muslim groups who petitioned the government to deny him entry. The government denied their requests, and Rushdie blithely Twittered, “Re: my Indian visit, for the record, I don’t need a visa.” But to many commentators, like those on IBN TV, this politicizing of Rushdie and The Satanic Verses, is the result of the up-coming Indian elections. (Rushdie subsequently backed down from attending, although a new report in The Guardian says he may appear via a video link.)

With this latest round of opposition to Rushdie and the book, the controversy shows no signs of abating. The offending readers and event organizers are being prosecuted for several offenses. Below is a itemized list, from the Times of India.

IPC Section 153 involves prosecution for wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot, Section 153A relates to punishment for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, Section 295A pertains to deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious covers beliefs and Section 298 is invoked for uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.

As the Times puts it:

The hardliner Muslim organizations and community leaders have been opposing Rushdie’s participation in the literary event this year even though the author attended it as one of the speakers in 2007. The Muslim community protesters maintain that Rushdie’s book has hurt its religious sentiments.

Hearings are set to begin today.


Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.