February 1, 2013 / 11:00 AM / 5 years ago

Rushdie says local government did not allow visit to Indian city

KOLKATA (Reuters) - British author Salman Rushdie accused local authorities on Friday of making it impossible for him to visit the Indian city of Kolkata to promote the film adaptation of his novel “Midnight’s Children”.

Demonstrators gather outside Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport to protest against a visit by British author Salman Rushdie in Kolkata January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

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 eastern 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 state’s 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 West Bengal 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 organizers 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 organizes 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 Jan 22 and attended the film’s premier 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 Indian actor and director Kamal Haasan’s “Vishwaroopam” film, 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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