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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Apr 2014

Trinamool MP calls Rushdie 'satan', supports Mamata's ban

IANS  Kolkata, February 01, 2013
First Published: 19:14 IST(1/2/2013) | Last Updated: 19:30 IST(1/2/2013)

Trinamool Congress MP Sultan Ahmed on Friday called Salman Rushdie a "satan" and said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had done the right thing if she indeed blocked the writer's visit to Kolkata.

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"I have no knowledge of what actually happened. But if the chief minister has indeed ordered the police to block Rushdie's entry to the city, then she has done the right thing. We don't have anything to learn from Rushdie," Ahmed said.

Ahmed, a member of the lower house of Parliament, was the union minister of state for tourism in the United Progressive Alliance government till the Trinamool quit the ruling dispensation.

He said Rushdie's only intention was to foment "inter-religious conflict" and added that freedom of expression did not give anyone the right to denigrate Prophet Mohammed.

"Rushdie is not an author, he is a satan," Ahmed said.

His comments came on a day the Booker Prize-winning author Rushdie said he was forced to cancel his trip to Kolkata two days back as he was told on the eve of his departure that the police would refuse him entry to the city and put him on the next plane back at the request of the chief minister.

Stating that he did not have freedom of movement in India despite being an overseas Indian citizen, Rushdie said Friday that he was forced to cancel his Kolkata trip because West Bengal chief minister had ordered police to block his arrival.

An upset Rushdie also said organisers of the Kolkata literary festival were lying when they said he wasn't invited to the event. The Satanic Verses author spoke out in a series of tweets and also issued a statement to vent his ire.

The author in a statement described as "a shame" the fact that he did not have "the freedom of movement within India to which any Indian is entitled by right" despite being an overseas Indian citizen.

"What is happening in India nowadays is an accumulating scandal and a growing disgrace to this great nation."

Citing MF Husain, Ashis Nandy, Kamal Haasan and others, Rushdie said the assaults upon their artistic and intellectual freedoms "add up to what I have called a cultural Emergency".

Rushdie, who found himself back in the headlines when his visit to Kolkata was called off, earlier took on the chief minister and the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM) organisers in 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.

"The simple fact is that the chief minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the police to block my arrival," said one tweet.

Rushdie also hit out at 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."

The 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 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 called off a trip 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.

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