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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Rushdie's Kolkata visit cancelled over protests

IANS  Kolkata, January 30, 2013
First Published: 10:46 IST(30/1/2013) | Last Updated: 18:13 IST(30/1/2013)

Author Salman Rushdie cancelled his visit to Kolkata Wednesday to promote Deepa Mehta's film Midnight's Children, based on his homonymous novel.

Rushdie was slated to hold a media meet about the film and attend an autograph session at the Kolkata Book Fair, which started Wednesday and will continue till February 10.

According to some reports, the writer of the The Satanic Verses planned to visit the Kolkata Book Fair and attend a session at the Kolkata Literary Meet. Producer of Midnight's Children David Hamilton, director Deepa Mehta and actor Rahul Bose were listed as speakers at the meet.

A Kolkata Literary Meet spokesman said Mehta and Hamilton have also cancelled their visits, and the session on Midnight's Children would feature only Bose.

However, the Kolkata Literary Meet's official programme did not list Rushdie as a speaker and the organisers said he was not a participant at the book fair and its literary meet.

PVR Pictures, the Indian distributors of the movie, confirmed that Rushdie and Mehta had cancelled their visit.

"We had some plans with Salman (Rushdie) to promote the film in Kolkata, but he did not go to Kolkata. It was his personal call. We now plan to do some more programmes in Mumbai," PVR Pictures (vice-president- marketing) Arun Nair told IANS.

However, Nair denied that the trip was cancelled due to security reasons. "Wherever he is going, security has been extremely high. I don't think there was a security problem," he said.

Meanwhile, a fringe Muslim group, which had sent protest mails to the state government Tuesday on learning about Rushdie's visit, staged a demonstration Wednesday morning near the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata.

"We withdrew the protest after the authorities assured us that Rushdie's visit has been cancelled," said Kamruzzaman, general secretary, All Bengal Minority Youth Federation.

There were reports that Kolkata Police officials advised the trip organisers against hosting Rushdie in the city. Neither the organisers nor police confirmed this.

"I don't know anything about Salman Rushdie's visit. I have nothing to say," said Kolkata Police Joint Commissioner (Headquarters) Jawed Shamim.

Author Amitav Ghosh said: "It is very unfortunate that Rushdie is not allowed to go wherever he wishes."

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 big screen 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 the book was published in 1988, while a fatwa was also issued against him by Iranian Islamic clergy.


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