Myth and Fiction at the Jaipur Literature Festival

William Dalrymple in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_10 Feb. 05 17.43While those journalists who actually attended the festival were able to write with accuracy about what happened, the further away journalists and columnists were from the event, the more distorted became their reports. Increasingly we have seen ourselves, and the festival we run, caricatured beyond all recognition.

The first myth I have watched developing after Salman cancelled his visit was that there was never any threat to his life. This is nonsense.

While we at the festival have no way finally to determine if the intelligence agencies really did exaggerate the threat perception to Salman—and that is certainly possible — what we do know is that there was a very real threat of violence at the venue if he did come. In a meeting held in Jaipur with representatives of 19 Muslim organizations on the 19th of January, the day before our opening, while the great majority of the groups were happy to pursue peaceful protests, we organizers were confronted by a few thugs who were hell bent on creating serious trouble and threatened large scale violence and personal harm to Salman and us.

They screamed threats and made it clear that they had no compunction about maiming or murdering to get their way. There were strong hints given that money had been offered to disrupt the event by any means possible. When Salman made the decision to cancel his visit, writing to us that “I can’t imperil the audience or my fellow writers or any of you,” I have no doubt that, sadly, he made the right call.

More here.