KOLKATA British author Salman Rushdie has abandoned plans to attend a publicity event for the film adaptation of his award-winning novel "Midnight's Children" in the Indian city of Kolkata after Muslim groups took to the streets to protest his visit.
Around a hundred protesters congregated outside the city's airport ahead of the Indian-born author's visit on Wednesday, airport officials said, the latest in a string of recent clashes over freedom of expression in India.
Rushdie's 1998 novel "The Satanic Verses" is banned in India due to its depiction of Islam, and the author was forced to abandon a visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival last January after protests and death threats against him.
"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.
The official declined to comment on whether the police or local authorities had requested the cancellation of the event.
Rushdie's cancellation comes amid protests against Indian actor and director Kamal Hasan's "Vishwaroopam" film, which Muslim groups say target their beliefs.
The joint commissioner of police in Kolkata declined to comment when asked if Rushdie's event was cancelled for security reasons.
"The matter went to the home secretary but from police there is no version on whether we had refused or agreed to offer security to Rushdie," Javed Shamim told Reuters.
(Reporting by Sujoy Dhar in KOLKATA and Henry Foy in MUMBAI; editing by Matthias Williams and Sanjeev Miglani)