MUMBAI: Police in Maharashtra today cast doubts on the threat to life of Salman Rushdie from "paid assassins" from Mumbai that led the controversial India-born author to pull out of the Jaipur Literary Festival.
Authors outraged at the circumstances which prompted the novelist, who also faced protests, to cancel his visit meanwhile were under the scanner of Jaipur Police after they read out passages from his banned book "Satanic Verses" to show their solidarity.
Announcing his cancellation in a message on the first day of the Literary event that kicked off yesterday, the Booker Prize winning author said he had been told by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that "paid assassins" from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to "eliminate" him. Rushdie claimed that this input prompted him to scrap his planned visit to the country.
"When we had no information that gangsters or paid assassins from Mumbai underworld had planned to eliminate Salman Rushdie how could we have shared it to anybody," Maharashtra Director General of Police K Subramaniam told PTI in Mumbai.
Subramaniam, however, said he was not aware if Rajasthan police had any such inputs and had shared information with Rushdie.
Mumbai police crime branch, which usually deals with underworld-related cases, also categorically denied having received any intelligence inputs about threat to Rushdie.
"We do not have any information suggesting that underworld is planning to harm Rushdie," said Deputy Police Commissioner (Crime) Nisar Tamboli.
"Rushdie faces threat only from fundamentalists and not the underworld," a senior IPS officer who did not want to be named said, adding, "I don't think that fundamentalists have given any contract for killing Rushdie."
Jaipur police have sought video footage of yesterday's session in which some authors read a portion from Satanic Verses banned in India for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Muslims after it was published in 1988.
Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar, as a mark of protest, used their session at the festival to read from Satanic Verses.
Later, authors Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi read out from the banned book.
"We asked organisers today to provide us details and video footage of a session in which the book was allegedly read," Jaipur Police Additional Commissioner Biju George Joseph said.
"We will examine whether the alleged reading from the banned book was done. It is a suo motu action. After examining the matter, appropriate action would be taken against those who were found guilty," he said.
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen(MIM) Party President Asaduddin Owaisi, who is an MP from Hyderabad, said these authors in the garb of liberal values are trying to destroy the secular and plural ethos of the country.
He demanded that the Centre and the Rajasthan Government should immediately file a criminal case against the authors for "deliberate" provocation.
Rushdie's proposed visit was objected to by India's largest Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband and had raised the hackles of several right wing groups.
Deoband had on January nine asked Rajasthan government to bar Rushdie from coming to India as he had hurt religious sentiments of Muslims.