Darul Uloom Deoband, an Islamic seminary, has demanded India ban British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie from entering the country to attend a literary festival. Rushdie, 64, is scheduled to speak at the Jaipur Literary Festival, which runs from January 20 to 24.
A section of politicians, religious scholars and social activists have also joined the demand to deny a visa to Rushdie.
How can you invite and give such a big platform to a person like Rushdie who did not hesitate in denigrating personalities that are held in high esteem by the Muslims, said Asaduddin Owaisi, who is the president of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and a Member of Parliament.
The controversy centers on a novel, The Satanic Verses, written by Rushdie in 1988. The book was considered blasphemous by many Muslims. The next year, the spiritual leader and ruler of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death.
Meanwhile, festival organisers said Rushdie would be certainly attending.
A literature platform like the Jaipur Festival is a place for free speech in the best democratic traditions. Salman Rushdie has attended several literary events and forums in India in recent years without incident, said Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director of the festival's producers, Teamwork Productions.
In addition, the Indian government has confirmed it will not prevent the author from traveling to the country. Rushdie has visited the country before, despite the fact that The Satanic Verses is banned in India.
Finally and most recently, Rushdie tweeted: For the record, I don't need a visa.
Unfortunately, there are broad political motivations behind this row, particularly since elections have been scheduled in the country's biggest state - Uttar Pradesh - where Muslims make up around 18 percent of the population.