Kolkata: Issues like fundamentalists` protest against author Salman Rushdie`s visit made real concerns of underdevelopment and poverty faced by Muslims in Bengal take a back seat, economist Amartya Sen said here on Sunday.
"Lot of people who are enormously disadvantaged, have reasons to complain about other things. Here, I`m not only talking about the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes... even in Bengal, if you look at Muslim groups in terms of the even-handedness of progress, they have not been as privileged," Sen said.
"To subvert that issue into a completely different kind of issue and getting offended about something else is distracting attention from the real disadvantage (underdevelopment, poverty) that they face," the Nobel laureate said at the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM).
Rushdie, the author of `Satanic Verses,` which has evoked extreme reaction from the Islamic world, was to take part in the KLM on January 30 to promote the movie made by Deepa Mehta based on his novel `Midnight`s Children`.
The author had cancelled his visit claiming that he was forced to do it following threats of being bundled out on the first flight by the police on orders of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Anticipating the Booker Prize winning author`s arrival, a few hundred people from minority groups had gathered at the Kolkata airport on that day, but dispersed when they learnt from the police that Rushdie had called off his trip.
A Muslim cleric of the city yesterday claimed that Banerjee had ordered Kolkata police to block the author`s visit at his insistence.
Several prominent personalities including author Mahesweta Devi and actor Soumitra Chatterjee have criticised the state government for cancellation of Rushdie`s visit.