They actually did this in Kolkata

These days I’m reading Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie and in this book he has explained how he sometimes used to attend writers’ conventions and ceremonies despite the sword of the Iranian Fatwa hanging over his head. He would arrive at the venue unannounced (only the police and a select few among the organizers would know), deliver the speech or receive the award, and then leave immediately. People would be caught by surprise, and nobody would get a chance to stage a protest or do something more nasty.

Anyway, I’m not sure if he was supposed to attend the promotional event of the upcoming film, Midnight’s Children in the same manner(based on his double Booker Prize winning eponymous book), but something really bizarre happened in Kolkata.

When the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee got to know of the impending Rushdie visit, she instructed the state machinery to stop him from coming at all cost.

And did you know what they actually did? The police started making calls to various Muslim organizations, asking them if they knew Rushdie was planning to visit the city, and if yes, if they were planning to protest. They didn’t know that he was coming, and now that they knew it, they’d certainly protest, was the reply. Hence, to maintain “communal harmony” he was barred from attending the event. So the police as well as the politicians openly (or covertly, if they had some traces of dignity left in them) colluded with the prospective miscreants to get out of an unpleasant or politically uncomfortable situation. Can it get more pathetic? Of course.

The organizers of the event themselves started denying that they had invited the writer of the book on which the movie is based. Rushdie openly said it on Twitter that not only he had been invited, he had also been sent a plane ticket and an accommodation had also been made in a hotel. Some of his related tweets are:

The 30 years of communist rule had considerably destroyed the sense of politics, industry and culture in the state, but under Mamata Bannerjee even the moral fabric seems to be going to the dogs (with due respect to the canine fellow beings). The ideological putrefaction has rooted itself to such a degree that they don’t even pretend. Salman Rushdie can impact the vote back, so he shouldn’t come, no bones about it. Someone draws Mamata di’s cartoon, throw him behind bars, WTF is freedom of expression? All sorts of barbarities take place in the state, but who cares? Just keep the pot of communal politics brewing and there doesn’t need to be even a semblance of civilization. Even if you have to collude with lawbreakers, just keep playing the tried and tested communal cards.

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