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Salman Rushdie withdrew Friday from India's largest literary festival over fears that he would be assasinated.
The well-known author had been slated to speak on the opening day of the five-day Jaipur literature festival, but said that he had been told to stay away out of fear for his own safety. "I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to 'eliminate' me," he said in a statement read out at the festival, the BBC reports.
Rushdie was to give a talk on Midnight's Children, his Booker Prize-winning second novel that was set in India, and also participate in a panel on the evolution of the English language in the country. He said he still hoped to take part in the festival by way of video link.
Rushie angered Islamic leaders with the 1988 publication of The Satanic Verses, prompting violent protests and Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to place a fatwa on his head.
The Guardian reports that security experts described the idea of gang leaders dispatching assassins to the literary festival as "far-fetched," and the author, likewise, voiced his own reservations about the assassinations rumors.
"While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience and to my fellow writers," Rushdie said.