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HVK Archives: Rushdie can return: Advani

Rushdie can return: Advani - The Times of India

Mahendra Ved and Bhaskar Roy ()
October 17, 1998

Title: Rushdie can return: Advani
Author: Mahendra Ved and Bhaskar Roy
Publication: The Times of India
Date: October 17, 1998

Is there a communication gap between Salman Rushdie and the authorities
in New Delhi?

Yes, if one goes by the views emanating from the government. The good
news is he is welcome back home. The government says it has nothing
against him. In fact, he has an admirer in home minister L.K. Advani.

"He is an outstanding writer and is welcome to return home," Mr Advani
told The Times of India News Service on Friday. An ardent reader, Mr
Advani admitted that Rushdie's celebrated novel, Midnight's Children,
had impressed him.

Asked for his response to the writer's bitter complaint that the country
of his birth had treated him as persona non grata during the period he
was under an Iranian death threat, the home minister said, "There is no
difficulty for him to come back to India."

But the government has no plans to revoke the ban on Rushdie's
controversial book, The Satanic Verses, that was imposed on October 5,
1988. The book had earned the ire of the Iranian clergy. The spiritual
head then ruling Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, had issued a fatwa that
Rushdie should be killed.

The government's attitude towards the Mumbai-born writer, the home
minister explained, was the same as that towards any other writer or
intellectual.

Mr Advani promised to look into any 'problem' of granting a visa to the
U.K.-based writer. "I will find out if there is any problem about his
visa," he said.

India was the first country to ban the book. Since then, relations
between the writer and the authorities in Delhi have been on a
downslide. In a recent interview, Rushdie remonstrated that all these
years he had been kept at bay by the Indian government and its
diplomatic missions abroad.

Mr Advani said that the government had "no proposal at present" to
revoke the ban on the book.

Sources in the external affairs ministry also conformed to the home
minister's view that if the writer applied for a visa, there would be no
problem in granting it.

The sale of The Satanic Verses is strictly prohibited in India. After
raising the hackles of Muslim politicians, who had led a delegation to
the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, an instant ban had come into
effect. An official now recalls that the decision was taken "without
reading the book". Subsequently, its import was banned.


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