New Delhi: In India two months after being forced to skip Jaipur Literary Festival, controversial author Salman Rushdie on Saturday hit out a Congress, suggesting that his presence there was blocked because of "useless electoral calculations" and told Rahul Gandhi that "it did not work".
The renowed author, who has been castigated by fundamentalist Muslim groups for his book 'The Satanic Verses', said blocking his presence in Jaipur "led the Congress party down the road" in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
Participating in India Today Conclave, he said the India "deserves to be led by better leaders than is being now".
Referring to the controversy which surrounded the Jaipur Festival in January which forced him to skip the event, he said, "What happened there is not Deobandi bigotry... It was pretty useless electoral calculations. It did not work, Rahul (Gandhi)."
He suggested that this "led to the debacle" of Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
"Indian electorate is smarter than these politicians... People can be whipped as in Jaipur Literary Festival," Rushdie said, adding 95 percent of Muslims are not interested in violence and that would be true for Hindus too.
Rushdie, who spoke at a session with the theme 'Liberty versus: I am what I am and that's all that I am', said the culture of "offendedness is growing" in India.
Citing the opposition by fundamentalists to late M F Hussain and other artistes and writers, he said, "it seems everyday there is a piece of bullying by groups of muslims, hindus.. Voices are being silenced.. The chilling effect of violence is telling and it is growing in this country."
Regretting the public apathy against such measures to silence free expression, the renowed author contended, "people are asleep. You need to wake up."
He underlined that "freedom is not tea party, freedom is a war... Freedom is not absolute, it is something which somebody is there to take away. If you don't defend, you will lose it."
On his presence in India again as promised by him two months back, he said "this seems normal that a writer of Indian birth, who loves this country, turns up to speak. This is normal. But it is abnormal that he is prevented. That danger is growing.
Talking about the stiff opposition by some fundamentalists to 'The Satanic Verses' written 24 years back, London-based writer questioned "who gives the people the right to attack me?
He said he was extremely shocked that the writers who read from The Satanic Verses at the Jaipur Festival to express solidarity with him were not defended and were still in the danger of being prosecuted.
He took a dig at Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah and Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh besides Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan for not turning up at the event reportedly because of his presence.
"Some politicians suddenly discovered that they had ridiculously overcrowded schedule," he said.
Controversial writer hits out at Imran Khan
Salman Rushdie hit out at Pakistan politician Imran Khan describing him as a 'dictator in waiting'.
The former Pakistan cricketer-turned-founder of the political outfit Tehreek-e-Insaf withdrew from the conclave two days ago, saying 'he did not dream of being seen with Rushdie for the immeasurable hurt he has caused to Muslims'.
“A British writer described Imran Khan as a dictator in waiting. I am happy that nobody else is protesting this time than Imran Khan. Imran is afraid of facing my bouncers. Imran knew that he would share the stage with me,” the Booker Prize winning writer said.
“Imran never read 'The Satanic Verses'. Imran is not a liberal,” Rushdie said. Rushdie, who returned two months after he vowed on Indian television that he would come back to India after being stopped from the Jaipur Literature Festival in January, said he had 'not caused immeasurable harm to Mulsims'.
“Fanatics cause biggest harm to Islam. Immeasurable harm have been caused to Muslims by terrorists,” he said. Rushdie said common people were more sensible than their leaders and 95 percent Muslims in India were not in favour of the violence and the things being said in their name.
“Freedom is not absolute, if you don't defend it, you lose it...,” he said. Freedom of speech is a casualty of bigotry, Rushdie said.
“India always had tradition of accepting free speech. Everyday there is a price for hooliganism by bigots,” he said, taking a dig at the 'disgraceful votebank politics taking place in India'. Rushdie said the ban on the import of 'The Satanic Verses' in the age of Internet was useless. Earlier, Union Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav withdrew their participation from the India Today Conclave.