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[Update 1/21] Rajasthan police invented plot - A WRITER UNDER THREAT, AGAIN

[Update 21-Jan] via Salman Rushdie on Twitter

‘Rajasthan police invented plot to keep away Rushdie'

By Praveen Swami
The Hindu
Mumbai Police say they have no record of alleged hit-men sent to kill him
Local intelligence officials in Rajasthan invented information that hit men were preparing to assassinate eminent author Salman Rushdie in a successful plot to deter him from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, highly placed police sources have told The Hindu.

Sources in the festival administration told The Hindu that Rajasthan Police intelligence officials had claimed that the threat to Mr. Rushdie came from two underworld hit men who they identified as “Altaf Batli” and “Aslam Kongo.” The intelligence officials also said an Islamist terrorist, Saqib Hamid Nachan, was suspected of financing the plot to assassinate Mr. Rushdie.

“I received a call from one of Mr. Rushdie's friends on Friday, asking about these names,” said a senior officer of the Mumbai Police, who deals with organised crime. “I thanked him for giving me something to laugh about.”

The officer said the Mumbai Police's dossiers on organised crime figures had no reference to individuals who might be using “Altaf Batli” and “Aslam Kongo.” “We've had a Salim Langda [‘the lame'], a Salim Kutta [‘the dog'], a Salim Tempo [‘truck'] and a Javed Fawda [‘the spade'] — but no ‘Kongo.' Lots of Batlis [‘bottles'], but no Kongos.”

The third name is of a former Students Islamic Movement of India leader from the village of Padgah, 80 km from Mumbai, who remains under 24-hour covert surveillance, though he has been acquitted of the past charges of participating in terrorist attacks in 2002-2003.

Maharashtra's Director-General of Police P.K. Subramaniam went on record to deny that his force had provided information on a potential threat to Mr. Rushdie. “When we had no information that gangsters or paid assassins from [the] Mumbai underworld had planned to eliminate Mr. Rushdie,” he told journalists in Mumbai, “how could we have shared it with anybody”?
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Sometimes it pays dividends to visit the scene of a great book—to deepen your sense of its wonders—and so on the way to the five-day Jaipur Literary Festival in India I started rereading “Midnight’s Children,” a novel that ended for good Salman Rushdie’s career as an advertising copywriter, and ignited one of the most extraordinary literary careers of modern times. Published in 1981, “Midnight’s Children” is a novel of Dickensian superabundance, with story upon story set in the rotting Bombay of Rushdie’s childhood, a bildungsroman that begins at the birth of both its hero, Saleem Sinai, and of an independent India. The festival, which just started today in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, is an astonishingly diverse and gaudy affair, with five enormous venues centered around the Diggi Palace, smack in the middle of Jaipur’s Pink City. There are elephants weaving between the mopeds on the streets, and onstage discussions are routinely interrupted by the resonant mooing of cows. When I got to the festival grounds this morning, there were already thousands of people waiting for the opening session under a multicolored tent; tens of thousands more are expected in the coming days, and even more will follow the events on the festival’s Web site and Twitter feed. The festival is featuring two hundred and fifty writers from South Asia and around the world, as well as a certain Oprah Winfrey (no kidding!), and my colleagues Philip Gourevitch and Katherine Boo (who has a fantastic book coming out next month on poverty in Mumbai, called “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”)

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