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Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Published at 21:08 GMT

World: South Asia

Rushdie granted India visa

The Satanic Verses provoked a storm of controversy around the world

The author Salman Rushdie has been granted a visa to visit India, the first country to ban his controversial book, The Satanic Verses.

South Asia Correspondent Mike Wooldridge: Reaction to the news has been fairly muted
The publication of the book which many Muslims regard as blasphemous led Mr Rushdie to be placed under a fatwa, or religious order, calling for his death from Iran's religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mr Rushdie described the decision to give him a visa to visit India, the country of his birth, as great news. His lawyer collected the visa at the Indian High Commission in London on Wednesday.

'Hurt and humiliated'

[ image: Irans' foreign minister distanced hi country from the fatwa last year]
Irans' foreign minister distanced hi country from the fatwa last year
Three months ago Mr Rushdie told an Indian magazine he had been "hurt and humiliated" by the attitude of the government there.

He claimed that the then Indian Government had banned The Satanic Verses without reading it, that India had treated him with disdain, denying him access even to Indian Government buildings abroad.

India has been the setting for much of Mr Rushdie's writing and he has recently had ancestral property there restored to him which he plans to turn into an arts centre, although so far he has been unable to visit it.

His first visit could be within two or three months.

Symbolic visit

India has a sizeable Muslim minority of around 130 million, but the present Hindu nationalist-led government in Delhi has taken a different approach to Mr Rushdie from that of its predecessors.

Though the Iranian Government last year deemed the Salman Rushdie issue to be finished, some hardline groups have declared their resolve to pursue the fatwa.

The BBC's South Asia Correspondent Mike Wooldridge says Mr Rushdie's first visit to India since the eighties will be of much symbolic significance to him and a measure of how far he has now been able to put The Satanic Verses behind him.

There is no sign as yet that India plans to lift the ban on the book.

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