A planned videolink appearance by Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literature Festival today (24th January) has been cancelled due to violence fears. According to a BBC report, the cancellation was termed "unfortunate but unnecessary" by organiser Sanjoy Roy following police reports that large crowds were gathering to march in protest.
Rushdie said on Twitter that cancellation of the videolink was "awful". "Threat of violence by Muslim groups stifled free speech today. In a true democracy all get to speak, not just the ones making threats," he Tweeted.
According to a Reuters report, festival director William Dalrymple had also received a death threat ahead of the Rushdie appearance. Dalrymple has declined to comment.
It is the latest twist in the escalating furore surrounding Rushdie's scheduled appearance at the India event.
Rushdie withdrew from the Festival in person after being told of an assassination threat which he has since denounced as a lie told by Rajasthan police to keep him away. That has been denied by the authorities. Meanwhile Hari Kunzru and four other authors—Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil, Ruchir Joshi and S Anand—then read from The Satanic Verses, as a symbolic gesture of support for Rushdie. However the book is banned in India and Kunzru then had to leave the country after being advised he could be arrested.
A group of writers in India have since set up a petition calling for the lifting of the country's ban on the book. English PEN has issued a statement in solidarity with the five writers, with president Gillian Slovo saying: "The ban on The Satanic Verses is an affront to free expression. It allows the kind of police harassment we have seen this week in Jaipur and legitimises the threats of violence against authors like Salman Rushdie." She went on to criticise the festival organisers, who had warned that any action by festival delegates which fell foul of the law "would not be tolerated". Slovo said: "It is disappointing that the organisers of the festival did not use their position to condemn this ban and so support a group of writers who did nothing more than read from a work of literary fiction."