Trinamool Congress MP Sultan Ahmed on Friday called Salman Rushdie ‘Satan’ and said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had done the right thing if she indeed blocked the writer’s visit to Kolkata. “I have no knowledge of what actually happened. But if the chief minister has indeed ordered the police to block Rushdie’s entry to the city, then she has done the right thing. We don’t have anything to learn from Rushdie,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed, a member of the lower house of parliament, was the union minister of state for tourism in the United Progressive Alliance government till the Trinamool quit the ruling dispensation. He said Rushdie’s only intention was to foment ‘inter-religious conflict’ and added that freedom of expression did not give anyone the right to denigrate Prophet Mohammed. “Rushdie is not an author; he is Satan,” Ahmed said.
Earlier in the day, Rushdie had said that he was forced to cancel his Kolkata trip because the West Bengal CM had ordered police to block his arrival. An upset Rushdie also said organisers of the Kolkata literary festival were lying when they said he wasn’t invited to the event. The author spoke out in a series of tweets and also issued a statement to vent his ire.
The author in a statement described as ‘a shame’ the fact that he did not have ‘the freedom of movement within India to which any Indian is entitled by right’, despite being an overseas Indian citizen. “What is happening in India nowadays is an accumulating scandal and a growing disgrace to this great nation.”
The 65-year-old was slated to visit Kolkata to promote Deepa Mehta’ film Midnight’s Children, based on his novel. “The simple fact is that the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the police to block my arrival,” said one tweet. Rushdie also hit out at organisers for saying they had not invited him and claimed he had an e-mail and plane tickets sent to him by them. “Finally re Kolkata: the lit meet organisers are lying when they say I wasn’t invited. I have e-mails and plane tkt sent by them to prove it.”
In a separate tweet, Rushdie slammed the police for giving his itinerary to the press and calling Muslim groups. “The police gave my full itinerary to the press and called Muslim leaders, clearly inciting protests.” Replying to another tweet, he: “I did not get ‘friendly advice’ to stay away from Kolkata. I was told the police would put me on next plane out.”