Rushdie Episode: Congress murdered constitution to placate fanatics
by Hari Om on 27 Jan 2012 9 Comments

World acclaimed writer Salman Rushdie, who hails from Mumbai and holds an NRI passport, was first barred by the Congress-led UPA Government and Congress Government in Rajasthan from visiting India to participate in the Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF). Then, to ensure the purge of the writer’s views from being disseminated at the same venue, they went further and cancelled Rushdie’s planned video address to the literary event.

Salman Rushdie was supposed to reach Jaipur on January 20, but Congress hatched a plot and forced Rushdie not to leave London for India. The Rajasthan Government told him there was a threat to his life as some underworld don had engaged three supari killers to liquidate him. The Rajasthan Government claimed that the Maharashtra intelligence agency had informed it about this conspiracy. Since the Government of Maharashtra was not kept in the loop regarding this insidious scheme, it immediately denied that such a plot existed or that it was the source of the ‘intelligence’. Unfazed by the exposé, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot shamelessly insisted that his government provided correct information to Rushdie.

Earlier, Ashok Gehlot had met with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and reportedly urged the latter to prevent Rushdie from attending the Literary Festival. The conspiracy clicked and Rushdie cancelled his Jaipur visit, saying he was doing so for the safety of the participants in the Literary Festival.

Upset, the organizers of the Literary Festival urged Rushdie to address the Festival through video. He agreed and was to address the gathering at 3.45 p.m. on 24 Jan. But the Rajasthan Government dithered over permission for even this exchange, and kept the organizers guessing almost the whole day. News channels sometimes suggested there would be a video address at the scheduled time and sometimes said the video address had been cancelled. Then around 2 p.m. the Rajasthan Home Secretary announced that the video address would take place, but it was not to be.

All this was happening at a time when a handful of extremists belonging to the Mili Council were raising a hue and cry outside the venue of Literary Festival. Reports clearly suggest that the Rajasthan Police watched the activities of the Mili extremists as a mute spectator. So much so, these extremists breached the three-layer security arrangement and entered the Literary Festival Hall to disrupt the programme and threaten the organizers. The Mili extremists did all they wanted and the Congress Government also did all it could to send a clear message to the radical Islamists that it shared their view that the physical participation of Rushdie in, or his video address to the Literary Festival, would outrage the Muslim community and injure its religious sensitivities; hence it was with them and what they stood for.

The Congress slept with the extremists in the same bed, notwithstanding the fact that Rushdie and the organizers had made it loud and clear that Rushdie would speak only on Midnight’s Children and not on his banned Satanic Verses. The Congress government said that Rushdie could not participate in the Festival because of security concerns, and that his video address could not take place because the owner (Ram Pratap Singh) of the property (Diggi Palace) where the Festival was organized had refused permission for video conferencing. All humbug.

Nobody buys the Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni’s argument that the Government of India did not stall Rushdie’s visit. Nor would any Indian, who believes in people’s democracy and genuine secularism, agree with the Hindu-basher Digvijay Singh’s assertion that the Congress did nothing in Jaipur to influence the voting patron in UP or to placate and woo Muslim voters.           

Nobody in India or the world ever expected that the Indian National Congress would stoop so low to placate radical Islamists because of the upcoming assembly elections in crucial Uttar Pradesh. But the Congress leadership in New Delhi, the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, and the Congress party and Government  in Rajasthan stooped so low and demonstrated their perverted thinking, bringing shame to India and to the Indian political system and lowering the nation’s prestige in the eyes of the international community.

The world is laughing at India and her sham Indian democracy. That a Central and State Government together could not protect one man on a two-day visit to the country is beyond belief. Even the notoriously secular Indian literary class is spitting on the Congress and its governments in Rajasthan and Delhi. Both conspired against the Indian Constitution just to placate the radical Islamists and capture Muslim votes in UP. They subverted the Indian Constitution and denied the organizers their fundamental right to free speech, right of expression and right to assembly.

Reflecting on the murder of democracy, the disappointed and outraged Rushdie said the cancellation of his video address was “awful”. “Threat of violence by Muslim groups stifled free speech today. In a true democracy all get to speak, not just the ones making threats. India might have progressed in economic terms, but it has become difficult for the believers in democracy to live in this country. The extremely intolerant elements and the political parties, including the Congress party, sleep in the same bed. This is unfortunate. India, like China, has become a totalitarian state, while the Muslim countries like Egypt, Libya and Turkey have become liberal. The Congress and similar other organizations prevented, opposed, and stalled his visit to capture Muslim votes in UP,” he said.

Sanjoy Roy, one of the organizers of the Literary Festival, remarked: “This is not a decision that we can support, we have been pushed to the wall. It is unfortunate that we are being bullied again and we had to step down…We had no other way out but to listen to save the people here, our children and everyone here. Some organizations have threatened violence. This is unfortunate but necessary to avoid violence. It is a fairly idiotic situation. We are once again stepping down from the fight for freedom of expression. We have been pushed to the wall again.”

As for the BJP, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley accused the Central Government of “pushing the country to pre-censorship era by preventing Rushdie from addressing the audience at JLF through video conference”. Referring to what he termed as “false” reports about security threats against Rushdie, Jaitley said that, “Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan Government in connivance with Central Government concocted the intelligence report and misled public over the writer's visit”. He said the “Central Government bowed before the religious fundamentalists” and this “will not be accepted”.

He added: “Earlier, in Shah Bano case, the Congress government (of Rajiv Gandhi) bowed before the fundamentalists and paid the price. Now, again this government is bowing before them, which is shameful…When any government bows to the demands of fundamentalists and hardliners, it sends out a bad message for the government and the political administration.”

Nobody would disagree with Rushdie, Roy, Jaitley and the outraged literary circles. Congress indeed subverted democracy, subverted secularism and subverted the Indian Constitution for petty vote-bank politics. January 24 will be remembered as a black day in the history of India. One commentator rightly said that it was not Roy who wept while stepping down, but it was the Indian Constitution and the nation which wept and cursed the Congress and other pseudo-secular formations.

The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research
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