Pranab, Omar drop out, but Rushdie to attend India Today conclave (Lead)

March 17th, 2012 - 2:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Pranab Mukherjee New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) A host of speakers, including Pakistan politician Imran Khan, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah have withdrawn their participation from the India Today Conclave that is to be attended by controversial author Salman Rushdie here Saturday.

Rushdie will address delegates and special invitees at the Taj Palace hotel in the capital at 8.30 p.m.

Pakistan politician Imran Khan, the chief of Tehreek-e-Insaf, said he would not share the same platform as Rushdie, while the rest cited official engagements.

“We deeply regret that Imran Khan will not address India Today conclave because of Salman Rushdie’s participation. The India Today conclave is a platform for free and frank exchange of ideas,” the India Today group chairman Aroon Purie said in a statement.

Union Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was to appear at the conclave a day after his budget presentation, regretted his inability to attend because of pressure from his constituency, Jangipur, in West Bengal that has a large Muslim population.

Rushdie is in the capital for the concluding session of the two-day annual conclave.

On Friday, Rushdie’s literary session was postponed to Saturday after Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan dropped out, ostensibly over Rushdie.

“Sir Salman Rushdie will be the gala night speaker tomorrow (Saturday) night,” Aroon Purie, chairman of the India Today media group, told delegates Friday.

Rushdie’s participation at the two-day conclave that started Friday at a five-star hotel here comes barely two months after he had to cancel his visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival due to threat from radical Muslim groups protesting against “derogatory references” to Islam in his novel “The Satanic Verses”.

Rushdie had vowed to return to India after his aborted visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival.

In a post on the twitter, Rushdie said “he was looking forward to speaking at the India Today conclave” and his address will be streamed live at Indiatodayconclave live.com.

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