Salman Rushdie has announced that he will not be attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, which began in the north-western Indian city today, following protests from Muslim groups who have called for the author to be banned from entering the country.
In an announcement today read by Jaipur Literature Festival organiser Sanjoy Roy, Rushdie said: “I have now been informed by intelligence sources … that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to eliminate me.” While he admitted that he was unsure of the reliability of these sources, to attend the festival, he said, would be “irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience and to my fellow writers.”
The Indian-born author also tweeted his disappointment: “Very sad not to be at Jaipur. I was told Bombay mafia don issued weapons to two hit men to ‘eliminate’ me. Will do video link instead. Damn.”
Influential Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband had demanded that Rushdie should not be allowed into India because of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, which is banned in India and was the subject of a fatwa by the then Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
It is expected that the Jaipur festival will attract around 60,000 visitors, making it Asia’s largest literature festival. Rushdie was due to give a talk on his Booker Prize-winning novel about Indian partition Midnight’s Children and also to participate in a discussion on the evolution of the English language in India. Rushdie previously attended the festival in 2007 and frequently visits the country of his birth.