Controversial author Salman Rushdie alleged on Friday that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee “ordered the police to block my arrival” in Kolkata on January 30. He was scheduled to travel to the city along with director Deepa Mehta to promote the film Midnight’s Children, based on his award-winning book.
On the day that he left the country, Mr. Rushdie furiously tweeted, clearing the air on the reasons for the last-minute cancellation of his visit to Kolkata. He also alleged that the organisers of the Kolkata Literary Meet were “lying when they say I wasn’t invited.”
In response to the allegations, the organisers of the 37th International Kolkata Book Fair issued denials, a Trinamool Congress leader congratulated the State government “for taking the right decision” and a senior Muslim cleric asserted that Ms. Banerjee had assured him that Mr. Rushdie “will not be allowed to enter the city.”
“The day before I was due to travel to Kolkata we were informed that the Kolkata Police would refuse to allow me to enter the city. If I flew there, I was told, I would be put on the next plane back,” Mr. Rushdie said in a written statement issued to the press from the Mumbai office of the public relations agency for the film.
‘Threat carried out’
The author said he was told that it was done “at the request of the Chief Minister.” Claiming that after the Jaipur Literature Festival last year (that Mr. Rushdie was also not allowed to attend), Ms. Banerjee “had said she would not allow me to enter Kolkata” and it appeared “she has made good that threat.”
He said he was “indeed planning to take part in a session at the Kolkata Lit (sic) Meet along with the scheduled speakers” Deepa Mehta and Rahul Bose and the organisers had asked him to appear as a “surprise guest… They actually paid for my plane ticket,” he said.
Describing Mr. Rushdie’s claims as “blatant lies,” Tridib Kumar Chatterjee, general secretary of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, the organisers of the book fair, told journalists that neither the Guild not the organisers of the Kolkata Literary meet had invited him.
“Writers also rely upon their imagination, but such a fanciful use of imagination on his part is surprising,” Mr. Chatterjee said.