Kolkata : Taking the West Bengal government head on, author Salman Rushdie Friday said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered police to block his arrival to Kolkata and that organisers of the literary festival were lying when they said he wasn’t invited to the event.
The controversial author of “The Satanic Verses”, who found himself back in the headlines when his visit to Kolkata was called off, hit back with a series of tweets.
The 65-year-old was slated to visit Kolkata to promote Deepa Mehta’s film “Midnight’s Children”, based on his novel.
Hours before the scheduled arrival, Muslim groups under the banner of Milli Ittehad Parishad demonstrated Wednesday morning near the airport and only relented after authorities said he was not coming.
Since then senior ministers and government officials have claimed they had no knowledge of Rushdie intending to visit Kolkata.
“The simple fact is that the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the police to block my arrival,” said one tweet.
Rushdie also took on the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM) organisers for saying they had not invited him and claimed he had email and plane tickets sent to him by them.
“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.”
In a separate tweet, Rushdie slammed the police for giving his itinerary to the “press” and calling Muslim groups.
“The police gave my full itinerary to the press and called Muslim leaders, clearly inciting protests.”
Replying to another tweet, the celebrated novelist and essayist said: “I did not get ‘friendly advice’ to stay away from Kolkata. I was told the police would put me on next plane out.”
Rushdie’s tweets came two days after the film’s director Deepa said in a tweet that Rushdie was supposed to be a surprise guest at the KLM. “Salman Rushdie was going to be a surprise guest ..Lit meet paid 4 his tkt.”
Rushdie was slated to hold a media meet about the film and attend an autograph session.
He had planned to visit Kolkata Book Fair – that started Jan 26 and continues till Feb 10 – and attend a session at the KLM on “Midnight’s Children” Wednesday evening.
The KLM, held as part of the book fair, had officially listed Deepa, the film’s producer David Hamilton and actor Rahul Bose as listed as speakers at the session.
So far, KLM organisers Gameplan have either outrightly denied having invited Rushdie or parried a direct reply.
After Rushdie called off his visit, Deepa also opted out to express solidarity with the author while Hamilton dropped out due to illness. In the end, literary enthusiasts had to be satisfied with a one-on-one with Rahul Bose.
In January 2012, Rushdie had to call off a visit to the Jaipur Literary Festival following protests by Muslim groups and death threats.
The main cast of “Midnight’s Children”, along with Rushdie, has toured Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore over the past week. Kolkata was to be the last port of call.
The film is based on Rushdie’s 1980 Booker Prize winning novel and he has written the screenplay for its movie adaptation.
Rushdie has for long been embroiled in controversy over his book “The Satanic Verses”, which has been perceived as anti-Islamic.
He had received death threats after it was published in 1988, while a fatwa was also issued against him by the Iranian Islamic clergy.
File Photo : AFP