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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam