Thursday, January 19, 2012

[English PEN] Protect Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literary Festival

English PEN Bulletin

English PEN calls upon Indian government to protect Salman Rushdie

English PEN protests against the failure of the Indian authorities to offer adequate protection to the author Salman Rushdie, who is apparently facing pressure to withdraw from the Jaipur Literature Festival in the wake of extremist threats.

English PEN understands that, rather than defending Rushdie’s right to freedom of expression, officials urged the festival organisers to stop him attending, nominally in order to maintain public order.

Gillian Slovo, author and President of English PEN, said: ‘Salman Rushdie was born in India and has every right to visit the country of his birth. The Indian Government had earlier said it would not stop Rushdie from attending the festival and it should honour its commitment to freedom of expression.’

Salil Tripathi, author and Chair of English PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, said: ‘We urge the Indian Government to uphold its own laws, and protect artistic freedoms and the rights of people to read, debate, and argue peacefully so that the country lives up to the ideals of Rabindranath Tagore: a heaven of freedom where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.’

Salman Rushdie participated in the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007 and is a regular visitor to India. In 2010 he said at a public lecture in New Delhi: ‘The best way to avoid getting offended is to shut a book. … The worst thing is that artists are soft targets. … We do not have armies protecting us.’

  • English PEN is the founding centre of an international writers’ association with centres in 104 countries. It is a registered charity (no. 1125610) that promotes the freedom to write, and the freedom to read, in the UK and internationally.
  • The Indian government is committed to upholding freedom of expression under the Indian Constitution, and under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a signatory.
  • Salman Rushdie has won the Man Booker Prize and the Booker of Bookers and the James Joyce Prize. In 2010, English PEN awarded him its highest honour, the Golden PEN award, for a lifetime’s achievement. Rushdie’s 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, prompted the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa. India was the first country in the world to ban the novel. English PEN condemned the fatwa then, and vigorously supported Rushdie's freedom to write.

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