Controversial author Salman Rushdie on Wednesday cancelled his visit to Kolkata, where he was scheduled to promote Deepa Mehta’s film Midnight’s Children, at the 11th hour, raising speculation that it was done at the behest of the State government due to pressure from some Muslim groups.
Mr. Rushdie and Ms. Mehta were scheduled to arrive here early on Wednesday, and a group of protesters had gathered at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport shouting slogans such as “Salman Rushdie go back!” It was only after they were informed that the “notorious anti-Islamic writer of Satanic Verses” would not be coming to the city after all that the protesters dispersed.
The author and Ms. Mehta were supposed to meet journalists, following which Ms. Mehta was to have spoken at a panel discussion on the film at the Kolkata Literary Meet — a five-day event being organised at the ongoing 37th Kolkata International Book Fair.
Moderator at the event Nilanjana Roy said: “Deepa is not well and Salman was disinvited by the special branch [of the city police]”.
Even as the film’s public relations managers refused to speak of the reasons for the last-minute change of plans, speculations were that the government had expressed concern about his security, despite the fact that Mr. Rushdie has travelled to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore without any incident. Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee told The Hindu that the State had no hand in the incident.