Hitmen are after me, says Rushdie as he pulls out of Indian festival

 

Jaipur

From modest beginnings it has become one of the biggest literary festivals on earth. This year the roster of big names talking about their work includes Michael Ondaatje, Tom Stoppard, Richard Dawkins, Annie Proulx, Hari Kunzru, Shashi Tharoor and William Dalrymple, the festival's co-director.

But this week India's Jaipur Literature Festival became more famous for something that was not happening: the appearance of Sir Salman Rushdie.

Yesterday morning it was still being reported that the Indian-born Booker Prize-winning novelist would attend, but within hours that all changed. He tweeted: "V sad not to be at Jaipur. I was told Bombay mafia don issued weapons to 2 hitmen to 'eliminate' me. Will do video link instead. Damn."

The volte-face came at the end of a stand-off between the Midnight's Children novelist, tweeting hectically, and an Islamic seminary called Darul Uloom Deoband, which revived 20-year-old memories of the Satanic Verses row to demand that he not be allowed into India.

There was something fake about the demand: Rushdie holds a passport that permits him visa-free travel to India. After breaking the ice a decade ago, he is believed to have visited several times in recent years. At the festival he was scheduled to talk about Midnight's Children; his most controversial book, the one which provoked Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, was not going to be mentioned.

The festival directors' misfortune was that this week sees crucial elections in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, which has a large Muslim minority and which the Congress Party is desperate to hold on to.

It is not clear why the Darul Uloom Deoband decided to make an issue of Rushdie's presence this year: he spoke at the festival in 2007 and they made no comment on it. But, with the elections pending, his presence became a political weapon for Congress's opponents. For Congress to defend Rushdie's visit would enable its opponents to portray the party as anti-Muslim, with potentially disastrous electoral consequences.

A bold state governor would have insisted that Rushdie must come, and would be protected. Instead no such assurance was forthcoming; a new fatwa was proposed – a payment of 100,000 rupees for anyone who threw a slipper at the author; assassination rumours floated and Rushdie pulled out.

Last night three novelists at the festival, Amitava Kumar, Hari Kunzru and Ruchir Joshi, ended their scheduled programme with an impromptu reading from The Satanic Verses to protest at the shabby treatment Rushdie had received. The audience applauded loudly.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing