NEW DELHI: Ruling out any government role in the move by controversial author Salman Rushdie to call off his India visit, Congress today said it was his "individual" decision as there was no restriction on his coming to the country.
"Calling off the visit is Rushdie's personal decision and the government has nothing to do with it...who has stopped him?... He does not need a visa to come to India," party general secretary Digvijay Singh told reporters in Lucknow.
Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband and various Muslim groups had opposed Rushdie's visit to the country to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival.
Singh added "there is no law" to stop the author from visiting the country.
Speaking in similar vein at the AICC briefing, party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, "Congress party and Congress-led UPA government stands steadfast in its absolute commitment to freedom of expression...certain agencies giving certain inputs does not mean that Government of India has been working from behind to stop his visit.
"The government has not changed its stand and decision that there is absolutely no restriction on his visit."
Singhvi at the same time disapproved of plans of some of the Indian writers to read out Rushdie's banned book "The Satanic Verses" saying law will take its course if some people resort to such acts either to "shoot themselves in limelight" or with the aim to "create a provocative atmosphere".
He also maintained that it was upto an individual whether to visit a place or not and his choice should be respected.
Replying to questions on the plans of two Indian writers to read out the controversial book in protest, Singhvi said the book stands banned in India for last 12 years and "if these gentlemen now wants to read it, obviously law will have to take its own course."
He said their move is "either an attention seeking exercise" or they are "knowingly creating a provocative atmosphere."