Rushdie cancels India visit on security grounds

Jaipur: After days of speculation, controversial author Salman Rushdie has called off his visit to India for the Jaipur Literature Festival citing security issues.

Festival organisers read out a statement by the Booker Prize winning author, which said, "For several days I have made no public comments on this issue at the request of local authorities hoping that they would put in place arrangements to allow me to come and speak.

"But I have been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from Mumbai underworld might be on their way to eliminate me. While I have doubts about these intelligence inputs, it would be irresponsible for me to come and endanger the life of fellow authors and others," the 64-year-old author said.

Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband and various Muslim groups had opposed his visit to the country. The organisers said they were dismayed over the development.

William Darlymple, director of the festival, which began today, said, "In a just place, Rushdie would have been showered with rose petals on the road. But this is unfortunate."

The author had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to the alleged blasphemous content in his novel `The Satanic Verses` which was published in 1988.

The novel, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on February 14, 1989.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had recently met Home Minister P Chidambaram on the issue and told him that the people of his state "do not want" Rushdie to come and had made representations to the state government about their feelings.