Kolkata, Feb 3 (IANS) Noted economist Amartya Sen Sunday criticised Muslim groups for the hue and cry over writer Salman Rushdie's plan to visit the city, saying it amounted to distracting attention from the community's real issues and was against Indian tradition of constructive argument.
"Lot of people, who are enormously disadvantaged, have enormous reasons to complain about other things," the Nobel laureate said at the Kolkata Literary Meet.
"Here, I'm not only speaking about the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes but add to the fact that even in West Bengal, if you look at Muslim groups in terms of the even-handedness of progress, they have not been as privileged," he 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 that they face," Sen said, replying to a query on the Rushdie episode.
Rushdie, who has been at the centre of storm for decades over "The Satanic Verses", a novel perceived as anti-Islamic, cancelled his visit to Kolkata at the last moment.
He alleged he was forced to call off his trip to Kolkata because West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had ordered the police to block his arrival.
Sen also said the controversy limits the Indian tradition of carrying out constructive argument by making it more militant.
"Anything that makes the Indian constructive argumentative tradition more militant - that people have the right not to be offended and therefore you cannot say those things - becomes a limitation because it restricts the conversation," said Sen, author of "The Argumentative Indian".
Rushdie was slated to visit here Jan 30 to promote "Midnight's Children", a film based on his novel. But hours before his arrival, Muslim groups under the banner of Milli Ittehad Parishad demonstrated near the airport.
Later, ruling Trinamool Congress MP and Muslim leader Sultan Ahmed confirmed that the state government told police not to allow Rushdie into Kolkata since it would lead to law and order problem. He also called the writer "satan".