Rushdie cancels Kolkata visit following protests

There were widespread protests against the author, who was due to make a promotional trip for the movie 'Midnight's Children'.

KOLKATA: Author Salman Rushdie has been forced to call off a visit to the city to promote a movie on the same day that veteran actor Kamal Haasan threatened to move overseas unless the ban on his film "Vishwaroopam" was lifted.

Rushdie, who was supposed to be in Kolkata for the promotion of Deepa Mehta's much-awaited movie 'Midnight's Children', based on his novel, had to call of the visit following widespread protests from Muslim groups that led to security fears.

A source close to the film told PTI they had planned some promotional activities involving Rushdie including a press conference but were forced to cancel it at the last minute after finding out that there were security issues. Rushdie was scheduled to be in Kolkata with Mehta and actor Rahul Bose.

Rushdie had said yesterday it felt good  to bring the film to its original birthland. "It's been great to be back in Mumbai because I have been saying that the film was born out of the book which was born out of this town, and so to bring it here is the most important opening for me and Deepa," Rushdie said.

He said the movie will be opening in 50 countries, and added "but somehow we feel that this is the place which feels like the most important front".

A winner of the Booker Prize in 1981, 'Midnight's Children' was adjudged as the best book to have won the Booker since the award's inception, and also won the 'Booker of Bookers' prize in 1993.

The film features an ensemble cast of Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Siddharth, Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi, Seema Biswas, Shahana Goswami, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan and Darsheel Safary and is slated to release this Friday.

Reuters adds:
Around a hundred protesters congregated outside the city's airport ahead of Rushdie's visit on Wednesday, airport officials said, the latest in a string of recent clashes over freedom of expression in India.

"We will not allow him here. He is hated by all Muslims in the world. I thank the government of West Bengal for listening to us," said Idris Ali, chief of the All India Minority Forum, referring to the state of which Kolkata is the capital.

"We protested under the banner of the group Milli Ittehad Parishad, an umbrella organisation of several Muslim groups." said Ali, who has previously led protests against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, whose novel "Shame" attracted widespread condemnation from Muslim groups.

"The event has been cancelled," a company official at the PVR Group, which is promoting and distributing "Midnight's Children", told Reuters on condition of anonymity as he was not permitted to speak to the media.

Javed Shamim, the joint commissioner of police in Kolkata, declined to comment when asked if Rushdie's event was cancelled for security reasons.