Author Salman Rushdie, whose controversial book "The Satanic Verses" was banned and earned him a death decree, has returned to his native India "to renew a broken connection," CNN reported Saturday.
"I want to say how delighted I am to be back in India after a 12-year gap and show my son Zafar a country he has not seen at all," Rushdie told reporters Friday.
"I have come here to renew a broken connection," he said.
"For me it has been a very moving occasion to be back here. ... I just hope this long rift between me and India is now over," he said, only hours after angry Muslims burned him in effigy.
In February, 1999, the Indian government granted Rushdie a visa.
"There is a kind of India that we all carry around with us and no one can take that away from us. But I needed to get back up to speed," he said.
"I needed to see how things have changed. I needed to drink it all up. ...I hope we can turn the page," said Rushdie, who said he was not angry at India but those who banned his book.
POLICE STOP MUSLIM PROTESTERS
Rushdie's appearance in New Delhi after gradually emerging from 10 years of hiding in Great Britain drew some 500 Muslim protesters who marched through the city's downtown area and shouted slogans against him.
"Salman Rushdie down, down," shouted the protesters, wearing traditional white prayer caps, as they tried to break through a police cordon.
"They have allowed a person into this country who is an enemy of Islam," a bearded old man shouted as he tried to keep pace with his fellow protesters
Police stopped the protesters and detained them for violating mass assembly laws.
They also set up a security ring around a New Delhi hotel where Rushdie was attending the Commonwealth Writers Prize 2000 awards ceremony. His sixth novel, "The Ground Beneath Her Feet," did not win a prize.
Rushdie reportedly arrived in India one week ago, although government officials have refused to confirm his itinerary.
"Today, I have learnt that Salman Rushdie is in India. He is hiding somewhere in the capital as he rightly fears for his life," said fiery Muslim politician Shoaib Iqbal, who led Friday's demonstration in New Delhi.
"The heretic who has insulted Islam and our Prophet Mohammad in his book Satanic Verses should never have got a visa to India," Iqbal told AFP Friday, accusing the Hindu nationalist-led government of deliberately trampling on Muslim sentiment.
"We want Rushdie's visa to be cancelled. The rascal should be sent packing," he said.
'BLASPHEMY' LEADS TO DEATH DECREE
Rushdie went into hiding in Europe for almost 10 years after late Iranian Imam Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a death ‘fatwa’ calling for his death in 1989 because of what they called blasphemy contained in his book, "The Satanic Verses."
Khomeini's order sparked protests India, Pakistan, and Turkey from Muslims who believed the author had insulted the prophet.
After police opened fire in Bombay in 1989 during a protest, 12 people were killed, 17 were wounded and the book was banned in India.
In 1998, the Iranian government said it would not carry out the fatwa, which, however could not be rescinded. Some Islamic groups continue to threaten the novelist's life (Several Sources)- Photo AFP.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)