Salman Rushdie has dropped out of India's top literary festival after hearing that assassins may have been planning to attend—and kill him. Powerful clerics had protested the author's attendance at the Jaipur festival, which opened today and was to feature Rushdie as a speaker. But "intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan" informed him "that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to 'eliminate' me," he said in a statement, according to the BBC.
"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," continued the statement read at the festival. Rushdie does plan to appear via video link, however. A top Islamic seminary in India last week asked the government to halt the author's planned visit, saying Rushdie "had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past." The protests come as the state gears up for an election in which Muslims make up a significant voting bloc. (Oprah is scheduled to appear at the festival; click to read about the trouble she had in India yesterday.)