Salman Rushdie says West Bengal government did not allow visit to Kolkata

KOLKATA Fri Feb 1, 2013 6:02pm IST

Author Salman Rushdie gestures during an interview with Reuters in central London, September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Paul Hackett/Files

Author Salman Rushdie gestures during an interview with Reuters in central London, September 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hackett/Files

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KOLKATA (Reuters) - British author Salman Rushdie on Friday accused the West Bengal government of making it impossible for him to visit Kolkata to promote the film adaptation of his novel "Midnight's Children".

On Wednesday, Rushdie, whose 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses" is banned in India due to its depiction of Islam, abandoned plans to attend a publicity event in the city after about 100 protesters gathered outside the city's airport.

Rushdie, in a statement, said he was informed that the police would refuse him entry and that the decision was at the behest of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He did not say who had told him this.

The Indian-born author said a police source had issued details of his planned visit to the media.

"This was a clear invitation to troublemakers to do their worst and about 100 people duly turned up at the airport to oppose my arrival. I can't help feeling that this too was a part of the authorities' plan," he said.

The state government reiterated its stance that it did not have details of the author's visit.

"We were absolutely in the dark about the invitation to Mr. Rushdie. It could be a private invitation, but we were not informed of it and it did not reach us," West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim told Reuters.

Javed Shamim, joint commissioner of police in Kolkata, declined to comment.

Rushdie said that he had been planning to participate in the International Kolkata Book Fair and had been asked by organisers to appear as a "surprise guest".

"If they now deny this, that is dishonest. They actually paid for my plane ticket," he said.

Tridib Chatterjee, honorary general secretary of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which organises the Kolkata Book Fair, said it had not invited Rushdie.

"He may be a great writer, but I am sorry to say that he is simply lying. We did not invite him," he told Reuters.

Rushdie arrived in Delhi on January 22 and attended the film's premiere in Mumbai on Thursday before leaving the country.

Last year, Rushdie scrapped a planned visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival after protests and death threats.

Rushdie's abandoned Kolkata visit comes amid protests against actor and director Kamal Haasan's film "Vishwaroopam", which Muslim groups say targets their beliefs.

(Reporting by Sujoy Dhar in KOLKATA and Subhadip Sircar in MUMBAI; Editing by Tony Munroe and Ron Popeski)

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