Salman Rushdie has launched a fierce attack on the Indian government for pandering to extremist Muslim groups and failing to protect freedom of speech after threats of violence forced him to withdraw from a top literature festival.
His planned appearance in conversation with a leading news presenter was cancelled at the last minute after the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival received death threats and the police warned of violence inside the venue and riots outside from Muslim protesters if it went ahead.
According to eyewitnesses, a group of around 50 Muslim men had infiltrated the crowd shortly before the session was due to begin an dwere intimidating members of the audience to give up their seats. Organisers were said to bewildered over how they managed to get past a bar code security pass system and hundreds of police. Jaipur’s police commissioner B. L Soni said protesters had earlier registered as delegates and were present inside in significant numbers.
In a television interview Salman said he believed the government had sought to stop him from appearing at the festival to win Muslim votes in its key Uttar Pradesh state election campaign and had circuited “fantastically fishy” intelligence reports of assassination plots to stop him to force his withdrawal.