Kolkata, Feb 1: Likening the “assaults” on artistic and intellectual freedoms in India to “cultural terrorism”, Booker Prize-winning writer Salman Rushdie Friday said it was a “shame” he did not have freedom of movement in the country despite being its overseas citizen.
Enraged after being forced to cancel his trip to Kolkata two days back following information that the Kolkata Police would refuse him entry into the city at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s request, the Mumbai-born writer said in a statement: “I am an OCI, an overseas citizen of India, and am proud to be one.
“It is a shame that this does not allow me the freedom of movement within India to which any Indian is entitled by right.”
“What is happening in India nowadays is an accumulating scandal and a growing disgrace to this great nation,” he said and referred to the assaults upon the “artistic and intellectual freedoms” of artist Maqbool Fida Hussain, novelist Rohinton Mistry, scholar A.K. Ramanujan, writer James Laine, filmmaker Deepa Mehta, sociologist Ashis Nandy and actor-director Kamal Haasan.
Rushdie said such incidents added up to “what I have called a cultural emergency” and hoped the people of India had the will to “demand that such assaults on freedom cease once and for all”.
Rushdie said he arrived in India Jan 22 at the invitation of the distributors of the film “Midnight’s Children”, based on his novel by the same name, and planned to visit Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Mumbai for its promotion.
“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. I was also told that this was at the request of the chief minister,” the statement read.
Attacking Banerjee, Rushdie recalled that the chief minister had said after the Jaipur festival last year she would not allow him to enter Kolkata.
“It would appear that she has made good that threat,” he said.
Rushdie also countered the Kolkata Literary Meet organisers’ claim that they had not invited him to the city.
The United States-based author said he was planning to take part in a session on his book “Midnight’s Children” at the event.
“The organisers were fully aware of this, and had asked me to appear as a ‘surprise guest’. If they now deny this, that is dishonest. They actually paid for my plane ticket.”
Blaming the police for the cancellation of his tour, he said: “A police source actually issued full details of my proposed itinerary to the press, which flight I was to arrive on, where I would stay, when I would go to the Kolkata lit meet, on what flight I would leave.
“This was a clear invitation to troublemakers to do their worst and about 100 people duly turned up at the airport to oppose my arrival. I can’t help feeling that this too was a part of the authorities’ plan,” he added.