New Delhi: Writer Salman Rushdie, the author of the controversial "The Satanic
Verses", Saturday evening hit out at Pakistan politician Imran
Khan describing him as a "dictator in waiting" at the India Today
2012 conclave in the capital.
The former Pakistan cricketer-turned-founder of the political
outfit Tehreek-e-Insaf withdrew from the conclave two days ago,
saying "he did not dream of being seen with Rushdie for the
immeasurable hurt he has caused to Muslims".
"A British writer described Imran Khan as a dictator in waiting. I
am happy that nobody else is protesting this time than Imran Khan.
Imran is afraid of facing my bouncers. Imran knew that he would
share the stage with me," the Booker Prize winning writer said.
"Imran never read 'The Satanic Verses'. Imran is not a liberal,"
Rushdie, who returned two months after he vowed on Indian
television that he would come back to India after being stopped
from the Jaipur Literature Festival in January, said he had "not
caused immeasurable harm to Muslims".
"Fanatics cause biggest harm to Islam. Immeasurable harm have been
caused to Muslims by terrorists," he said.
Rushdie said common people were more sensible than their leaders
and 95 percent Muslims in India were not in favour of the violence
and the things being said in their name.
"Freedom is not absolute, if you don't defend it, you lose it...,"
Freedom of speech is a casualty of bigotry, Rushdie said.
"India always had tradition of accepting free speech. Everyday
there is a price for hooliganism by bigots," he said, taking a dig
at the "disgraceful votebank politics taking place in India".
Rushdie said the ban on the import of "The Satanic Verses" in the
age of Internet was useless.
Earlier, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Jammu and
Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Uttar Pradesh Chief
Minister Akhilesh Yadav withdrew their participation from the
India Today Conclave.