NEW YORK    -   Salman Rushdie, the controversial British author of Indian origin, was stabbed Friday before giving a speech in Chautauqua, a town in western New York, according to media reports.

Salman Rushdie is in surgery, Reuters news agency quotes his agent as saying. That’s all we have at the moment, the agent said. An Associated Press (of America) reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing Rushdie, 75,  as he was being introduced. The author was taken or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained.

A bloodied Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest, according to the American news agency.

In a press release, the New York State Police confirmed that a man rushed the stage and stabbed Rushdie in the neck. “Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital,” the press release said.

“His condition is not yet known.   The interviewer suffered a minor head injury. “A State Trooper assigned to the event immediately took the suspect into custody. The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene.”

Rushdie’s treatment of delicate political and religious subjects turned him into a controversial figure. But it was the publication of his fourth novel “The Satanic Verses” in 1988. Muslims found the book to be sacrilegious and it sparked public demonstrations. In 1989, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called Rushdie a blasphemer and said “The Satanic Verses” was an insult on Islam and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for his death.

As a result, the Mumbai-born writer spent a decade under British protection before the Iranian government announced it would no longer seek to enforce the fatwa in 1998. Iran had also offered over $3 million in reward for anyone who kills Rushdie.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters Friday that Rushdie is “alive” and “getting the care he needs.” She said a state trooper “stood up and saved his life and protected him as well as the moderator who was attacked as well. “Here is an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power,” the governor said of Rushdie. “Someone who has been out there unafraid, despite the threats that have followed him his entire adult life it seems.”

The 75-year-old novelist -- the son of a successful Muslim businessman in India -- was educated in England, first at Rugby School and later at the University of Cambridge where he received an MA degree in history. After college, he began working as an advertising copywriter in London, before publishing his first novel, “Grimus” in 1975.