Blocking Rushdie not shameful: TMC leader

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 01, 2013 10:25 hrs

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Sultan Ahmed on Friday said he welcomed the decision taken by West Bengal government to block writer Salman Rushdie's visit to Kolkata even as another state minister said they were in dark about the visit.

Ahmed made the comments on a day when Rushdie, who had to cancel his visit to Kolkata in view of protests on Wednesday, said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blocked his trip to the eastern city where he was to be present at a literary festival.

"There is nothing shameful, I am congratulating the state government for taking the right decision," Ahmed told CNN-IBN.

Slamming Rushdie, Ahmed said: "You cannot denigrate Islam and get away with it."

"I welcome the decision of Mamata Banerjee to not let him in. It is not free thinking, abusing a religion is not free thinking. In the land of Swami Vivekananda, Kazi Nazrul Islam, we don´t support this kind of a thing in the name of free thinking," Ahmed said.

However, West Bengal Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim told IBNS that the government had no idea about Rushdie´s visit. "We were in dark and we checked with the fair authorities," he said.

Rushdie on Friday said the Kolkata Literary Meet organizers were lying that he was not invited in the first place and can show his plane ticket and emails.

"The simple fact is that the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the police to block my arrival," he tweeted reacting apparently to a report that quoted Trinamool leader Saugata Roy saying that Rushdie was given friendly advice to not be in Kolkata.

"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.(sic)," tweeted Rushdie.

"Also re Kolkata... The police gave my full itinerary to the press and called Muslim leaders, clearly inciting protests. Ridiculous, Saugata Roy. I did not get "friendly advice" to stay away from Kolkata. I was told the police would put me on next plane out," he tweeted.

Rushdie with filmmaker Deepa Mehta were scheduled to visit Kolkata to promote their film ´Midnight´s Children´ on Wednesday but later it was cancelled.

Police refused to speak on the issue and said they have nothing to offer while Muslim groups which protested told IBNS that they thanked the government for stopping Rushdie.

A Kolkata Book Fair official, within which the meet is being held, earlier said Rushdie was not invited at all.

According to earlier reports, PVR Cinema, which is distributing ´Midnight´s Children´, based on Rushdie´s book, supposedly said they could not organise the venue for a press conference to promote the film in Kolkata.

With the news of Rushdie´s visit spreading, some minority organisations were holding protests at the Kolkata airport in the morning claiming they would not allow the author of the book ´The Satanic Verses´, which is still banned in India, to enter the city.

This is not the first time that the artist is facing such protests as Rushdie was denied participation at the Jaipur Literary Festival last year following the protests by some hardline Muslim groups.

The government reportedly said Rushdie´s visit would pose a huge security risk as intelligence agencies is reported to have warned the writer that they had information about assassins who could be deputed to kill him by the Mumbai underworld.

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