Salman Rushdie and Deepa Mehta
Author Salman Rushdie has said that he was banned from visiting Kolkata earlier this week by the West Bengal government headed by Mamata Banerjee. "The simple fact is that the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the police to block my arrival," Mr Rushdie tweeted today.
Mr Rushdie also said, "The police gave my full itinerary to the press and called Muslim leaders, clearly inciting protests."
Mr Rushdie's visit to Kolkata was part of a publicity tour for the film "Midnight's Children", based on his award-winning novel. The movie, directed by Deepa Mehta, releases in India today.
Saugata Roy, a senior leader of the ruling Trinamool, told NDTV on Thursday night that Mr Rushdie was "advised as a friend" to skip Kolkata. "Salman Rushdie comes to a city, people come to know of it and people start protesting... it creates a law and order problem. The state government just advised him to cancel his visit. The state government has not banned him," he said.
Mr Rushdie retorted on Twitter, "Ridiculous, Saugata Roy. I did not get "friendly advice" to stay away from Kolkata. I was told the police would put me on next plane out.
In a statement mailed to the press today, Mr Rushdie said, "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." (Read: Salman Rushdie's full statement)
Mr Rushdie's 1988 book, The Satanic Verses, remain banned in India for alleged blasphemy. On Wednesday morning, a group of 100 protesters showed up at the Kolkata airport to demonstrate against his visit and dispersed after being informed that the trip had been cancelled.
Last year, Mr Rushdie was forced to pull out of the Jaipur Literature Festival after some groups protested against his visit, and intelligence agencies suggested that the Mumbai underworld may have commissioned assassins to target him.
(With Inputs from Agencies)