NEW DELHI: Government today ruled out barring Salman Rushdie from visiting India in the wake of a demand by a top Islamic seminary to cancel his visa even as the controversial author said he does not need a visa to come to this country.
Official sources said 65-year-old Rushdie holds a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card which entitles him to visit this country without a visa.
The sources said since PIO card guarantees any such person hassle-free travel without any document, Rushdie is not required to apply to any authority of the Government of India seeking permission for his proposed visit to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival this month end.
"He had travelled to India in the past using PIO card.
We have never stopped him. We have no intention to stop any PIO card holder to travel his or her home country in future either," a source said.
Rushdie remained unfazed over the demand by Darul Uloom Deoband to block his planned trip to India and suggested it was misplaced.
"Regarding my Indian visit, for the record, I don't need a visa," posted Rushdie on microblogging site Twitter after Deoband demanded that the Indian government cancel the author's visa as he had hurt religious sentiments of Muslims in the past.Indian-origin Rushdie also has a British passport.
"Why should Congress stop this(Rushdie trip)?," Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid asked.
"If there is a legal provision to stop someone then it should be put. But whatever step is taken should be taken within legal framework not outside it," he said.
Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani said yesterday that the "Indian government should cancel his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past."
Political parties reacted to the Deoband demand amid some finger pointing.
BJP's Nirmala Seetharaman alleged there is a "very big game" behind the visa row and accused the Congress of being behind it.
Samajwadi Party's Shahid Siddiqui said the Government's approach exposed its "double standards" on the issue of giving travel documents to Rushdie and the late painter M F Husain.
Rushdie had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to the alleged blasphemous content in his novel "The Satanic Verses" which was published in 1988.
The novel, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on February 14, 1989.
Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamworks Productions which is organising the Jaipur Literature Festival said, "A literary platform like the Jaipur festival provides a space for free speech in India's best democratic traditions.
"Salman Rushdie has attended several literary events and forums in India in recent years without incident. This includes his attending the Commonwealth Writers Prize awards in 2000, and the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007.
"In plural societies such as ours, it is imperative that we continue to allow avenues for unfettered literary expression," said Roy.