West Bengal authorities, anticipating Muslim protests, did not want him to come. Instead of standing up for the freedom of speech against violent intimidation, they become the willing enforcers of Sharia restrictions on criticism of Islam.
“Salman Rushdie’s Kolkata visit cancelled over security concerns,” from India Today, January 31 (thanks to Lookmann):
In a most unusual incident, controversial author Salman Rushdie, who was scheduled to visit Kolkata on Wednesday to promote Deepa Mehta’s film based on his book ‘Midnight’s Children’, was not allowed to come to Kolkata owing to security reasons.
The author of ‘Satanic Verses’ was supposed to come to Kolkata for promoting the film along with director Deepa Mehta and main cast Rahul Bose. But the visit had to be cancelled at the eleventh hour.
Deepa Mehta also cancelled her visit to Kolkata where she was scheduled to participate in an interactive session on her film at the second edition of Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM) being held at the Kolkata Book Fair. The film based on Rushdie’s novel ‘Midnight’s Children’ will hit the cinema halls on Friday.
Sources said the West Bengal government did not want the controversial author in the city anticipating there might be protests by some religious groups. A few years ago there were protests against the visit of Bengali writer Tasleema Nasreen that led to serious law and order problem in Kolkata.
Asked whether the state government stopped Rushdie from coming to Kolkata, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee told MAIL TODAY: “Initially we did not have any information about his arrival. I got the information at around 10 pm last night (Tuesday) from the police. They said Rushdie was not coming to Kolkata as they came to know from their counterparts in Mumbai that his visit was cancelled.”
Banerjee said somebody like him (Rushdie) coming to Kolkata obviously had some serious implications. “Special security arrangements were needed for him. But as per I know there were no plans at all,”
Kolkata police joint commissioner (headquarters) Javed Shamim said that they did not have any prior information of Rushdie’s visit to Kolkata. “I have nothing to say about Rushdi’s visit. This much I can tell you. Please don’t ask me anything more,” Shamim told MAIL TODAY.
Organisers of the literary fest at the Kolkata Book Fair, however, said the police had asked them for a written guarantee that the author would not attend the meet. Sources also said the police had told the organisers if Rushdie came to the city he would be sent back immediately in the next flight.
Sources in Publishers and Book Sellers’ Guild, the body responsible for organising the Book Fair, also said that phone calls from senior city police officers and “a senior minister” started coming from Tuesday afternoon directing them to cancel Rushdie’s programme at the fair.
Last year Rushdie had withdrawn his name from the Jaipur Literature Festival after reports of a death threat. He was also forced to abandon plans to address the gathering by a video link after protesters threatened to march at the venue.
Meanwhile, anticipating Rushdie’s arrival in the city around a hundred people from various Muslim groups had gathered at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport in the morning to protest against his visit. After the airport police told them the author was not coming to Kolkata from Mumbai, they gradually dispersed.