The decision to ban author Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses in India was taken purely for law and order reasons, former Union minister K Natwar Singh said on Saturday, according to PTI.
Singh made the statement a day after the Indian-born British author was stabbed in the abdomen and the neck at an event at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. The author is currently on a ventilator, his agent said.
In the wake of the attack, many social media users have been criticising the decision of the Rajiv Gandhi-led central government in 1988 to ban the import of the book. Singh was the minister of state for external affairs at that time.
On Saturday, the 91-year-old Congress described allegations that the government’s decision then was aimed at appeasing Muslims as rubbish. He said that he did not think the decision was wrong as the book had led to law and order problems, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Rajiv Gandhi asked me what should be done,” Singh recalled. “I said, ‘all my life I have been totally opposed to banning books but when it comes to law and order, even a book of a great writer like Rushdie should be banned’.”
Singh said that the Congress government’s decision was completely justified. “I said, ‘the entire Muslim world is going to flare up, we have a large number of Muslims and apart from that, what the book contains at this time, is not acceptable,” he told PTI.
The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, ran into controversy after being accused of blasphemy and mocking the Muslim faith.
In 1989, Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a religious edict known as a fatwa, asking Muslims to kill Rushdie.
The author was placed under police protection by the United Kingdom government for many years, and he was subjected to numerous threats of assassination.
The book’s Japanese translator was killed in July 1991. A few months later, an Italian translator was also stabbed and the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot.