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Rushdie, Fearing 'Hitmen,' Bows Out Of India Book Festival After Hard-Line Protests

A cobbler wearing a mask of British author Salman Rushdie polishes shoes outside a mosque during a protest by an Islamic organization in Mumbai on January 11, ahead of the planned visit.
Acclaimed British author Salman Rushdie has announced that he will not attend a literature festival in India after protests by a group of hard-line Muslim clerics.

The planned appearance of the Indian-born Rushdie at the Jaipur Literary Festival sparked an outcry among some Muslims who consider his 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" blasphemous.

"Very sad not to be at jaipur. I was told bombay mafia don issued weapons to 2 hitmen to 'eliminate' me," Rushdie said via his Twitter page. "Will do video link instead. Damn."

Last week, a group of hard-line Muslim clerics urged the government to bar Rushdie from the five-day event, which starts today.

The 65-year-old author has attended the annual event previously without incident.

Rushdie spent years in hiding after Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini urged that he be killed for blasphemy because of "The Satanic Verses."

The book is banned in India.

The Jaipur Literary Festival is a major cultural event that each year attracts thousands of Indian and foreign visitors.

compiled from agency reports