Writers, film fraternity slam Bengal govt over Rushdie

The literary and film fraternities Friday came out in support of Salman Rushdie and blamed the West Bengal government for cancellation of his visit to Kolkata.

"We are sitting in Kolkata where Rabindranath Tagore wrote about a society where the mind is without fear and the head held high, where knowledge is free. Can we truly say all our recent developments have been fair reflection of a society where knowledge is free? These are questions we need to ask ourselves," writer and union minister Shashi Tharoor said at Kolkata Literary Meet.

On the role of government in this, he said, "The government has an obligation to uphold law and the constitution. When the government balances creative expression versus public order, one would hope the government, both state and central, would be on the side of creative freedom because that is what our culture needs. Unfortunately, in some cases, the balance has gone the other way."

Magsaysay award winning author Mahasweta Devi said, "If a world renowned writer is unable to come to Kolkata, then it is extremely unfortunate. Kolkata has always remained an open city for all. It has welcomed and helped writers from all over the world. That way it has a different type of depth. But what is happening now is very strange and I don't find any logic in it."

Renowned filmmaker Mrinal Sen said, "This is injustice to Rushdie. When I hear things like this it gets on to my nerves."

Veteran actor and Dadasaheb Phalke awardee Soumitra Chatterjee also condemned the incident as "sad and unfortunate".

Poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar said no freedom was absolute and urged both the government and Rushdie to do some introspection. "You are free to do so many things according to the constitution but at the same time your rights should not trample other people's rights. There is always a grey area," Akhtar told The Indian Express.

He added, "It is the state's responsibility to see there is no law and order problem. The onus lies on the government that once a book or a film is legally okayed, they should not accept any nonsense. If that is not happening then we can say the government is not capable enough."

Exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin, who was bundled out of Kolkata in 2007 following protests against renewal of her visa, said people had been silent then and "it has now become a trend in Kolkata to protest against writers".

"The real reason is the hypocrisy of intellectuals of Kolkata who were silent when I was thrown out of the city. Now these maulvis have been strengthened and encouraged to do anything at their will," Nasrin said.

Rushdie has alleged that he was forced to cancel his trip to Kolkata after being threatened that he would be sent back on the first flight on the orders of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

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