Rushdie, organisers spar on Kolkata visit
New Delhi/Kolkata, Feb 1 (IBNS) India born British writer Salman Rushdie, who had to cancel his visit to Kolkata in view of Muslim protests on Wednesday, on Friday said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blocked his trip to the eastern city where he was to be supposedly present at a literary meet though a senior minister of the state denied it and the organisers of the Kolkata Book Fair where he was suppose to show up said the celebrated writer is lying since he was never invited.
Rushdie first tweeted that the Kolkata Literary Meet organizers were lying that he was not invited in the first place and can show his plane ticket and emails and later issued a statement detailing it.
West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim told IBNS that they were in dark about Rushdie visit and perhaps the invitation was a private one.
Organisers of the Kolkata Book Fair on Friday said Rushdie is lying about the invitation given to him.
"I am sorry to say he is just lying. He is a great writer but he is lying here on the visit," Tridip Chatterjee, honorary general secretary of the Kolkata Book Fair told IBNS.
Chatterjee said his name was never on the list of guests for the literary meet that is held within the Kolkata Book Fair.
Rushdie tweeted: "The simple fact is that the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the police to block my arrival," he tweeted reacting apparently to a report that quoted Trinamool leader Saugata Roy saying that Rushdie was given friendly advice to not be in Kolkata.
"Finally re Kolkata: the lit meet organizers are lying when they say I wasn't invited. I have emails and plane tkt sent by them to prove it.(sic)," tweeted Rushdie.
In a TV programme, ruling Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said Rushdie was given friendly advice to not to come to Kolkata, but Rushdie denied any such advice to him.
"Also re Kolkata... The police gave my full itinerary to the press and called Muslim leaders, clearly inciting protests. 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," he tweeted.
In his statement Rushdie said: "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. 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."
"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," he said.
Rushdie with filmmaker Deepa Mehta were scheduled to visit Kolkata to promote their film 'Midnight's Children' on Wednesday but later it was cancelled.
Police refused to speak on the issue and said they have nothing to offer while Muslim groups which protested told IBNS that they thanked the government for stopping Rushdie.
According to earlier reports, PVR Cinema, which is distributing 'Midnight's Children', based on Rushdie's book, supposedly said they could not organise the venue for a press conference to promote the film in Kolkata.
With the news of Rushdie's visit spreading, some minority organisations were holding protests at the Kolkata airport in the morning claiming they would not allow the author of the book 'The Satanic Verses', which is still banned in India, to enter the city.
This is not the first time that the artist is facing such protests as Rushdie was denied participation at the Jaipur Literary Festival last year following the protests by some hardline Muslim groups.
The government reportedly said Rushdie's visit would pose a huge security risk as intelligence agencies is reported to have warned the writer that they had information about assassins who could be deputed to kill him by the Mumbai underworld.
Rushdie statement in full:
I arrived in Delhi on January 22nd at the invitation of the distributors of the film of my novel Midnight's Children. The plan was to visit four cities, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Mumbai, culminating in the Mumbai premiere of the movie on January 31st.
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. 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.
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.
At any rate the police made my visit impossible. A police source actually issued full details of my proposed itinerary to the press, which flight I was to arrive on, where I would stay, when I would go to the Kolkata lit meet, on what flight I would leave. 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.
I am an OCI, an overseas citizen of India, and am proud to be one. It is a shame that this does not allow me the freedom of movement within India to which any Indian is entitled by right.
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 Hasan has called cultural terrorism. I can only hope that the people of India have the will to demand that such assaults on freedom cease once and for all.
I would like to conclude by saying that, setting this unfortunate matter aside, I have been overjoyed to bring our film of Midnight's Children to India, and have been deeply touched and much moved by the affection, warmth and enthusiasm shown to me and my work by Indians across the country. I take this opportunity to thank them for their kind reception, and I hope to return to India as soon as good sense prevails.