Salman Rushdie's videolink address to the Jaipur Literary Festival in Rajasthan was cancelled Tuesday, after protesters swarmed the venue and the owner objected to the risk to the property, NDTV reported.
"It's a great pity for India," said longtime Indophile and former BBC correspondent Mark Tully.
Prior to the cancellation of the video address, festival organizer William Dalrymple reportedly received a death threat. Meanwhile, the Congress Party, the government of Rajasthan and the central government have all faced criticism for caving to pressure from extremists, as the affair gained stature as a possible election issue with Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh.
Perhaps in a bid to douse that fire, Sheila Dikshit, the Congress Party chief minister of Delhi, announced that the author was welcome to visit India's capital city, if not Rajasthan.
Similarly, a local NGO invited Rushdie to come to Delhi and read aloud from the Satanic Verses alongside the paintings of M.F. Hussain -- who lived in exile for many years after Hindu fanatics decided that some of his works were offensive to their gods.
In a parallel development, newspaper editorials and an online petition have questioned the ban on Rushdie's 1988 novel, the distribution of which was restricted in India after complaints that it insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Legal experts say the "ban" covers only imports of the book, while free speech advocates argue that it should be overturned.