KOLKATA: Controversial author Salman Rushdie today alleged that he was forced to cancel his trip to Kolkata after being threatened that he would be bundled out on the first flight by the police on orders from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“… The day before I was due to travel to Kolkata we were informed that the Kolkata police would refuse to allow me to enter the city. If I flew there, I was told, I would be put on the next plane back. I was also told that this was at the request of the Chief Minister,” Rushdie said in the statement.
Rushdie was to take part in the Kolkata Lit Meet as a surprise guest on January 30 to promote the movie adaptation of his novel ‘Midnight’s Children’ but the organizers later denied inviting the author.
“Let me be clear. I was indeed planning to take part in a session at the Kolkata Lit Meet along with the scheduled speakers Deepa Mehta, Rahul Bose, and Ruchir Joshi. The organizers were fully aware of this, and had asked me to appear as a “surprise guest”. If they now deny this, that is dishonest. They actually paid for my plane ticket,” Rushdie further said.
In his tweet, the Booker prize-winning author said, “The simple fact is that the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the police to block my arrival. I did not get ‘friendly advice’ to stay away from Kolkata. I was told the police would put me on next plane out… The police gave my full itinerary to the press and called Muslim leaders, clearly inciting protests.”
Rushdie attended the premiere of ‘Midnight’s Children’ in Mumbai last night with the star cast of the film before leaving India. . Rushdie traveled to India on January 22 to promote the film. In Delhi, the venue of his press conference was shifted from a mall to a hotel due to security reasons but other than that he did not face any problems in the city. His trips to Bangalore and Mumbai were also peaceful.
Recalling the fiasco over his trip to Jaipur literature festival last year, Rushdie said, “I remember that after the Jaipur festival last year Mamata Banerjee had said she would not allow me to enter Kolkata. It would appear that she has made good that threat.”
Rushdie called the recent controversies surrounding the release of Kamal Haasan’s film ‘Vishwaroopam’ and the problems faced by author Ashish Nandy’s for his alleged anti-Dalit statements, “assaults upon the artistic and intellectual freedoms”.
“What is happening in India nowadays is an accumulating scandal and a growing disgrace to this great nation.
“The assaults upon the artistic and intellectual freedoms of, for example, Maqbool Fida Hussain, Rohinton Mistry, AK Ramanujan, James Laine, Deepa Mehta, Ashis Nandy, Kamal Haasan and others add up to what I have called a cultural Emergency and what Mr Haasan has called cultural terrorism,” said Rushdie.
The author said that being a “proud” overseas citizen of India, it was a shame that he was not allowed to move freely within the country to which any Indian is entitled by right.
He hoped to return to India “as soon as good sense prevails.” -PTI