The Rajasthan government has reportedly asked the organizers of the Jaipur Literature Festival to dissuade novelist Salman Rushdie from attending the annual event, which begins Jan. 20, citing security threats by Islamic groups.

Teamwork Productions, which is organizing the festival, said in a press statement that Rushdie would not attend the first day of the festival “due to a change in his schedule.” Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamworks India, later told local reporters that Rushdie would attend the rest of the festival.

“His security remains a prime concern,” said Roy.

“The politics of appeasement have once again interfered with the process of democracy,” said writer Murzban Shroff, who faced a three-year prison sentence for reportedly using obscenities in his short story collection, “Breathless in Bombay.” A judge ruled in Shroff’s favor last October.

“By barring Rushdie’s entry to the Jaipur Literature Festival, the Government of India has shown that it is more susceptible to the ills of democracy rather than being mindful of its strengths and merits,” Shroff told India-West, adding that the ban was “a slur on democracy and to the physical freedom of writers.”

He noted similar restrictions on the work of artist M.F. Husain and novelist Rohinton Mistry, whose novel “Such a Long Journey,” which won the Commonwealth Prize, was banned from Mumbai University’s syllabus after protests from the Shiv Sena, a nationalist organization.

Larry Siems, director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center, told India-West, “The Jaipur Literary Festival has emerged as one of the most important celebrations of international writers and literature and the festival’s invitation to Salman Rushdie to be part of this year’s program is absolutely in line with that proud tradition.”

“We certainly expect that he will be allowed to attend the festival and very much hope that the program will proceed in its entirety as planned,” said Siems.

India’s best-known writer had been scheduled to speak at three sessions during the five-day event, which will be packed with literary luminaries, including Annie Proulx, Ben Okri, Kiran Nagarkar, Lionel Shriver and Michael Ondaatje.

Daytime television matriarch Oprah Winfrey, lyricist Javed Akhtar and J.K. Rowling, of the Harry Potter series, are also scheduled to attend.

Rushdie’s attendance at the festival came into question when an Islamic organization in Uttar Pradesh, the Darul Uloom Deoband, called on the Indian government to cancel Rushdie’s visa, as he had “annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past.” The novelist however noted on Twitter that he has a PIO card and thus can freely travel to India without a visa.

A fatwa was issued on Rushdie in 1989 after publication of “The Satanic Verses.” Several Islamic organizations blasted the book, saying it was blasphemous and made a mockery of Islam.

Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, vice chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband, threatened on Jan. 9 that if the government gave no response to its demands, “(we) will take appropriate action.”

Later that week, the Raza Academy, based in Mumbai, announced that it would award Rs. 1 lakh – about $2,400 – to anyone who throws a slipper at Rushdie during his visit to the festival.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, told India-West that CAIR would discourage actions such as shoe throwing.

“But we believe that everyone should have the right to voice their opinions no matter how abhorrent,” added Hooper, characterizing Rushdie as “one of a cottage industry of Muslim bashers.”

“He’s almost the B-team now,” said Hooper, noting there are far more vociferous anti-Islamists two decades later.

Shroff, in a statement to India-West, characterized Rushdie as “a writer who has redefined the way the English language is written and stretched the very limits of its versatility.”

“How is it, that in trying to pander to wanton irrationality, we fail to stand by our most sacred constitutional rights, the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of movement,” he queried.

Rushdie attended the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2007 without incident.