Author Salman Rushdie gestures during an interview with Reuters in central London, September 28, 2012. — Reuters Photo

NEW DELHI: Acclaimed British author Salman Rushdie cancelled a film promotional event and veteran Indian actor Kamal Haasan threatened to go into exile Wednesday after Muslim groups protested their work.

In the eastern city of Kolkata, Rushdie, whose 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” remains banned in India for allegedly insulting Islam, was forced to cancel a trip to promote a film of his novel “Midnight's Children”.

TV footage showed about a hundred people from various Muslim groups gathered outside the Kolkata airport on Wednesday morning to protest his planned visit.

Haasan said he could leave the country after his new film “Vishwaroopam”was forced out of cinemas by the government in the southern state of Tamil Nadu for allegedly depicting Muslims in a negative light.

The latest incidents come amid growing concern about artistic expression and free speech in India.

Haasan said he was “fed up” by the controversy over his film and would seek to live in another country just like India's acclaimed painter M.F. Hussain who was targeted by Hindu hardliners and fled the country in 2006.

“I will find, hopefully, another country which is secular that might take me in M.F. Hussain had to do it, now Haasan will do it,” he said at a press conference in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.

Rushdie, whose stay in India has been shrouded in secrecy due to threats to his life, spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death.

Last year, Rushdie was forced to withdraw from a literary festival in the northwestern Indian city of Jaipur in January after death threats and angry protests from Islamists.

On Tuesday, Indian academic Ashis Nandy saw a police complaint filed against him for reportedly saying that some of India's most disadvantaged groups were the “most corrupt”.

A cartoonist was last year charged with sedition and arrested over a private complaint about his work depicting widescale corruption in government ranks and the society.

He was released only after an outcry from freedom of expression campaigners.

 Indian state defends film ban amid free speech fears

 The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Thursday defended its ban on a new film by veteran actor Kamal Haasan, which has renewed fears over freedom of artistic expression in the country.

Spy thriller “Vishwaroopam” was forced out of cinemas after Muslim groups complained that they were portrayed in a negative light, leading Haasan - who directed and co-produced the film - to threaten to go into exile.

Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram said her government was forced to impose the 15-day ban to prevent unrest across the state, because there was “every apprehension” that protests outside cinemas would turn violent.

“When you know that there's going to be violence in a certain situation, in a certain place, it's the duty of the government to do whatever is possible to prevent that happening,” the former actress told reporters in Chennai.

She said the state did not have enough police to maintain law and order outside more than 500 cinemas that were due to show the movie.

Haasan, who is due in Mumbai on Friday for the film's release there, has reportedly agreed to modify his movie to appease the protesting groups.

“If the leaders of the Muslim organisations and Mr Kamal Haasan can sit together and work out an amicable agreement, the government of Tamil Nadu will do everything possible to facilitate that,” Jayaram said.

The ban comes in the same week that British author Salman Rushdie also faced the wrath of Muslim groups, forcing him to cancel a trip to the eastern city of Kolkata to promote the film “Midnight's Children”.

Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” is seen as blasphemous by some Muslims, was also forced out of India's biggest literature festival last year after apparent threats to his life.

The latest controversies have sparked a fresh round of concern over free speech in India.

Author Manu Joseph wrote on Thursday that the country “is a paradise for those who take offence because the first reaction of the state is to appease those who claim to have been offended”.

An editorial in the Mid Day tabloid, decrying a “herd mentality”, said that “more and more people are joining in to stifle any kind of expression perceived as offensive” without even seeing the film or reading the book in question.

Indian film stars have rallied around Haasan since the ban on his film, which has already passed the country's censorship board.

“Go stand outside the cinema hall (and) insist on seeing the film,”Bollywood megastar Salman Khan told his huge following on Twitter on Thursday. Another leading actor, Shah Rukh Khan, said it was “the most unfortunate thing to happen to a film”.

India's Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari told NDTV that each case was different, but state governments “need to lean in favour of freedom of speech and expression” even amid law and order fears.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (48)

February 1, 2013 9:15 am
Either you have not read the document or have considered Kamal Hassan a muslim :)
Pankaj Patel(USA)
February 1, 2013 6:02 pm
Don't forget that Charwak was also atheist but he was still culturally Hindu,so Kamal Hassan still remains culturally a Hindu.Hinduism is not a monolithic religion or a religion at all.It is a way of life.
raja hindustani
February 1, 2013 5:53 pm
In this Information Technology age, how relevant is banning any book or movie..?? anyhow Rushdie's book & kamal hasan's vishwaroopam is/will be available on internet.
Narcotic guy
February 1, 2013 7:13 am
I dont get you man!
February 1, 2013 6:30 am
Do you remain as cool if somebody insults your family or parents in public?
February 1, 2013 6:05 am
You did not read the article... did you
February 1, 2013 3:58 pm
Even Indian Muslims do not want to migrate to Pakistan. Then how do you expect a Hindu like Kamal Haasan to do so?
February 1, 2013 3:53 pm
Yes Shiraz, I agree with you. In India Muslims are hounding Muslims (Salman Rushdie) and Hindus (Kamal Haasan) alike.
Sultan Khan
February 1, 2013 4:13 am
Don't be mistaken by the name Kamal Hassan. He was born in a Brahmin family and turned atheist afterwards. All his family is Hindu.
February 1, 2013 4:18 am
Which Muslim are you talking about? Rushdie and Hassan Muslim or the other Muslims?
February 1, 2013 4:54 am
It is the govt that has given in to the fundamentalists my friend. Where is the question of Muslims not being safe in India?
Avishek Roy
January 31, 2013 10:38 am
Shame for us...Shame for every Indian... :( Another bad day.. what hurts most is that, those who are protesting, 95% haven't read Salman Rushdie's or Taslima Nasrin's writings....or, Kamal Hasan's movie... you have the right to protest...but, at least know what's the issue you are actually protesting against... I am ashamed...
Ahmed Sultan (India)
January 31, 2013 4:26 pm
Sir Indian muslims are protesting here. So liberal like salman khurshid is not safe
January 31, 2013 6:23 pm
That sounds a lot like you didn't read the news at all. It's the Muslim groups that have been appeased, no one else.
Muhammad Farooq, ON Canada
January 31, 2013 2:40 pm
Acts of violence in response to expression of an opinion is not appropriate. You can also give a counter argument and prove the other person wrong. Had it been so, Salman Rushdie and his book would have been sitting on shelf like so many others. By such bitter opposition and passing fatwas against him we have given life to his works. A society gets stronger with dialogues.
Rashid Sultan
January 31, 2013 10:23 am
Salman Rushdie is an Indian author NOT a British author. He doesn't live in Britain and when he did, he was an Indian author. Let's get this one straight. All these protests and protestors, including those who are classified as terrorists give us Muslims (and Pakistanis) a bad name globally. Why not let things be and let people do and say what they feel inclined to instead of taking offence and getting worked up into a frenzy and then damage human lives?
January 31, 2013 10:04 pm
Well said.
Krish Chennai
January 31, 2013 4:20 pm
Salman Rushdie is a citizen of Great Britain, and for the entire period of the fatwa on him, stayed in GB, which afforded him protection at the British taxpayers' expense, much to the chagrin of most taxpayers in the UK. A few years ago, he moved to New York. The Indian government (centre) as well as state governments severally, decided to not permit him to enter their region, as they not only wanted to appease certain sections of vociferous people, but to be generally seen as keeping the peace. Maybe one should also comment on Taslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi author who is denied residence in her own home country, and the counterpart Bengal in India. Rushdie has commented years ago on the injustice done to her, drowned in the international acclaim accorded to him.
January 31, 2013 3:34 pm
Mr Imran - In january 2013 alone there were 216 ethenic killings in pakistan. Just do the simple math and decide where the revolution should come and where the muslims are safe/
Mohd Imam
January 31, 2013 3:32 pm
Muslims are perfectly safe in India, but its the frail mindset of few who dont understand that a mighty religion like Islam can never be tarnished with such movies, and nor is such intention by the filmaker.
Mohan Menon
January 31, 2013 7:18 pm
yeah revolution in your dreams.....
January 31, 2013 7:34 pm
Another example that u are concerned about other country rather than looking into situation of minority in ur country.
Iftikhar Husain
January 31, 2013 1:24 pm
It is all politics as religion is used by all groups in both the countries. It is up to the governments and the society as whole to fight this menace.
Gerry D'Cunha
January 31, 2013 2:04 pm
majority of muslims need to learn 'tolerance' and 'patience' like other faith and religions.
Md Imran
January 31, 2013 12:55 pm
Another example that muslims are not safe in India. India needs to solve the core apprehensions of her muslim population, or there will be a revolution soon.
Avishek Roy
January 31, 2013 4:59 pm
Kamal Hasan is not a muslim...He is an "Atheist" by faith..he declared that...and by birth, he is Hindu Brahmin...
Avishek Roy
January 31, 2013 5:04 pm
Actually he is Indian by birth...but, he holds dual nationality of both India & UK..
January 31, 2013 6:50 pm
Muslims have the freedom to leave India if they wish. How many muslims left for India or for other countries for their safety and freedom? Remember Sahir Ludhiyanvi,Dr sallam?
manpreet singh
January 31, 2013 10:32 pm
salman rushie's roots are in pakistan, his mom still lives in karachi. he has never lived in india. we all know who ahmed rushdi is.
February 1, 2013 4:26 pm
If you have read it completely, then you will know that Hasan is Hindu, and not Muslim, though his name sounds so, and is considering to go to exile. Only is a secular state can the minority create problem for majority. There were no protest for his previous Hindu-god bashing movies like dasavatar and other movies like OMJ, Hey Ram etc.This only shows Muslims over react for each and everything and are curse to this world.
January 31, 2013 2:01 pm
This is a case of democracy going bad and overboard.Taking advantage of free speech and to create turmoil.The problem lies with the keepers of democracy. That is the government and the judiciary. Both unfortunately have failed. One due to politics and vote issue and the other which during the 60's and 70's were quoted for their judgements in the commonwealth countries courts has now become a joke.10 to 12 years to settle a case,which then goes to appeal which will take another some 10 years.
January 31, 2013 2:58 pm
India portrays itself secular but look at the events being taken place. Shame for India!
Schabboo Khan
January 31, 2013 5:17 pm
Dear Md: True Muslims are not safe in India but realize they are not safe from other Muslims, just like in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria...what revolution and where?
January 31, 2013 5:28 pm
Which Muslims are you referring to. The reality is that the Muslims are not safe in Pakistan.
January 31, 2013 5:29 pm
I agree. Unfortunately, you will get very little support for your voice of sanity from our masses.
January 31, 2013 5:38 pm
Kamal Haasan is not a muslim.
January 31, 2013 5:40 pm
Kamal hasan is not muslim. his film was banned bcoz of opposition by islamist.
January 31, 2013 6:15 pm
Your comments are untrue and biased. There are more muslims in India who are happy than muslims in Pakistan. If Indian muslims were unhappy they would have migrated already.
January 31, 2013 6:35 pm
Another example that no one is sane err safe in Pakistan. Pakistan will have to solve the core apprehensions of her entire population or it will remain revolting.
January 31, 2013 6:38 pm
Kamal Hussein is most welcome to emigrate to Pakistan. We will screen your movie here.
Roy K
February 1, 2013 12:26 am
Revolution is coming to Pakistan where Muslims are killing Muslims. Such a shame, that a country made in the name of Islam is on a crusade to kill all minority Muslims. Your other minorities are fleeing Pakistan, ever rising terrorism, failing economy, unable to pay foreign debt, pathetic conditions of Pakistan Railways and PIA, and you still find time to think about India. Stop acting as a self appointed Caliph of the MUSLIM WORLD. Try cleaning dirt under your own carpets and they then look around. Its not good to grow your resentments as you age, else you will become a bitter old man very soon !!
February 1, 2013 12:38 am
Last week, Forbes India magazine published their latest issue placing Shah Rukh Khan on the cover page. Forbes says he is the richest celebrity in India earning over 250 Crores in an year. His is a rags to riches story. His business interests ranges from Movies, to Real Estate to the ownership of Kolkata Knight Riders Cricket Franchisee. Such a person says he is not safe in India! I am not taking sides. Just think. Do you think a Hindu in Pakistan can gain such a status? I don't think so.
February 1, 2013 4:16 pm
looks like you are part of parcel of those set of people who dont understand articles or even take time to fully read article, but protest and post comets.
February 1, 2013 2:28 am
Kamal hassan is Hindu not muslim.
February 1, 2013 1:21 pm
Are Muslims safe in Pakistan?
February 1, 2013 9:57 pm
Read the comment just above.
February 1, 2013 10:01 pm
You are spot on. But the trouble is that Muslims being spiritual descendants of a violent tribal philosophy are incapable of a peacefull protest.
Soul of Manto
February 1, 2013 10:02 pm
Please explain the revolution part.
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