Salman Rushdie pulls out of Indian literary festival amid assassination fears

Author Salman Rushdie has been forced out of the Jaipur Literary Festival, after receiving information suggesting hit-men had been ordered to assassinate him.

Muslim leaders had been calling for Indian-born Rushdie to be banned from the festival. Rushdie’s 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which is inspired by the life of Muhammed, was perceived by Muslims to be blasphemous.  Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie, calling on all good Muslims to kill the author. The book was banned across the world, including in India, where it is still banned.

This morning Rushdie announced his withdrawal from the festival.

Salman issued the following statement:

“For the last several days I have made no public comment about my proposed trip to the Jaipur Literary Festival at the request of the local authorities in Rajasthan, hoping that they would put in place such precautions as might be necessary to allow me to come and address the Festival audience in circumstances that were comfortable and safe for all.

I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to “eliminate” me. While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the Festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience, and to my fellow writers. I will therefore not travel to Jaipur as planned.”

Following the announcement, writer Salil Tripathi, who wrote about the controversy surrounding Rushdie’s visit earlier this week, suggested all writers at the festival should read from The Satanic Verses:

Author Hari Kunzru agreed, and planned, alongside academic Amitava Kumar, to do just that.

Kumar tweeted:

Organisers apparently ended the protest, warning those that individuals could face police action for reading a banned book.

India must choose to defend free speech

 As religious leaders call to ban Salman Rushdie from the Jaipur festival in India, Salil Tripathi reports on the country’s “sepulchral silence”


** Update 20 January 2012 ** – Salman Rushdie tweeted this morning:

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