William Dalrymple: Why Salman Rushdie was forced to cancel his visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival

The historian and writer explains the reasoning behind author Salman Rushdie’s no-show at the 2012 Jaipur Literary Festival.

According to the historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the biggest mistakes made by the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival was to publicise Salman Rushdie’s appearance during a tense election period in the Indian state of Rajasthan (read our case study here). Dalrymple says that although he initially opposed the cancellation of Rushdie’s appearance and the subsequent video address, the risk of violence erupting either through protests or a stampede was too high for it not to be a serious consideration. He adds that “in a volatile situation with a police force that routinely shoots crowds of peaceful protesters, in a venue … which is massively overcrowded already, where even few people throwing chairs could have ignited a rush for the exit, I think we did the right thing.”

Interview by Maryam Omidi and Manav Bhushan

(Photo by Nimbu under a Creative Commons Attribution-only licence.)

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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