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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 973

Taslima Nasreen: The Daughter of Eternal Bangladesh on the run in India- But Why?

By Rajen Thakur – for Asian Tribune

Dhaka , 26 November ( Asiantribune.com) : In the last week in Kolkata, rattled by the violent protests against Taslima Nasreen, the state government and ruling CPI(M) have decided to wash their hands off the controversial Bangladeshi writer, even as sources said that she quietly left for Jaipur on Thursday 22 November2007.The CPI(M) state secretary, Biman Bose, on Wednesday night had clearly said that if Ms Nasreen’s presence in the city had caused breach of peace, then she should leave. It is another matter that he later claimed that he did not mean what he said.Taslima NasreenTaslima Nasreen

"I had said that issuance or rejection of visas was the Centre’s prerogative and the state government has no role to play," a statement, which Mr Bose issued on Thursday, pointed out. But he also added that the state had urged the Centre to "take an appropriate decision on this matter".

In Delhi, meanwhile, the BJP attacked Mr Bose saying his comments were "improper" if the government is genuinely committed to uphold the freedom of expression. Mr Bose’s remarks had also raised the hackles of intellectuals. Criticising Mr Bose’s remarks, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said: "I strongly disagree with him."

He told reporters outside Parliament that every writer has freedom and the Left Front government in Bengal should ensure that it is protected. The CPI(M) state secretary may have reason to tread cautiously on the sensitive issue but the Speaker of the Assembly, Hashim Abdul Halim, without mincing words, made it clear on Thursday that Ms Nasreen was an unwanted guest.

He said that her stay in the city had definitely created law and order problem. "The state government should write to the Centre, informing it that her stay has created a law and order problem. The Centre had sanctioned her visa to stay in Kolkata and so if her presence has led to violence, then the state should take it up with the Centre," he elaborated. The violence-scarred areas fall in Mr Halim’s Entally constituency.

"There was large-scale violence in the city on Wednesday. The state government is in touch with the Centre, which will decide on the issue," he added. Mr Halim also passed the buck to the Centre’s door and said that it was the Centre, which issued visas and it was entirely upto the person to decide where she wanted to stay after getting the visa.Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, however, maintained a discreet silence on the issue. On Wednesday, the entire media tried to contact Ms Nasreen but she remained incommunicado reports Asian Age.

Taslima on the run in India

Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen has been on the run from extremist Muslims threatening to kill her ever since she started writing books that incensed religious hardliners reports Afp, New Delhi.

On Friday, Nasreen was being bundled from place to place in an all-enveloping black burqa as Indian authorities sought her a safe haven following violent Islamist protests calling for her expulsion. Nasreen fled her Muslim-majority homeland of Bangladesh in 1994 after huge street protests by demonstrators who decried her writings as blasphemous and demanded her "execution." Now the 45-year-old gynaecologist-turned author who describes herself as a humanist says all she wants to do is stay in India but has "no place to go. The latest events had pushed her to the brink of collapse.

"I am mentally distressed. I am not well at all," Nasreen told the Press Trust of India on Friday by telephone from an undisclosed location. The overtly atheist Nasreen, whose website proclaims "I don't believe in God," stayed for some years in Europe and the United States after leaving Bangladesh. But she had made her home in Kolkata in communist-ruled West Bengal state since 2004 in an apartment, kept company by a cat she found at a fish market and guarded by Indian security forces. The Bengali-speaking eastern Indian state borders Bangladesh and is -- she says -- "closest to what I know as home."

"I am a Bengali writer and I would like to live on in surroundings imbued by Bengali culture," Nasreen, author of 28 books of poetry, novels and other works in her native language Bengali, told Indian media in 2005. It was unclear on Friday where Nasreen would go amid unconfirmed media reports she was travelling to the national capital New Delhi. She has been seeking permanent residence in officially secular India.

But so far, the government has only granted her six-month visa extensions, fearful of upsetting the country's 140 million-plus Muslims. Media reports said New Delhi has extended her Indian visa, which was due to expire in February 2008.

In New Delhi, Muslim group, All India Milli Council, said on Friday all Muslim organizations would "vehemently protest" her stay as she has "hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in the country."

Extremist Muslims have been baying for Nasreen's execution ever since she wrote her debut novel "Lajja" or "Shame" in 1994 depicting violence against minority Hindus by Muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh. The outspoken feminist has also stirred anger with trenchant descriptions of the oppression of women in male-dominated Bangladesh, calling religion and patriarchy "the causes of women's suffering. "When I wrote about how religious dogma stymied the lives of women, they wanted to hang me," she told the Calcutta Telegraph in 2005. Her presence in India has provoked relentless controversy.

Just last March, an offshoot group of the influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board, declared a 500,000-rupee (11,319 dollar) reward for anyone who "beheaded.. the notorious woman" who has "has put Muslims to shame". Born in 1962 in Mymensingh, north of Dhaka, into a conservative middle-class Muslim family, she said she questioned early on the Koran's teachings. At the age of 23, she wed a poet who had drug and alcohol problems and who died three years later of a heart attack. She wed twice more but now is single. "My mother asked me not to ask any questions about Allah and to have blind faith in Allah. I could not be blind," she wrote in 1997. Her family has suffered too. When her mother -- a devout Muslim -- died, nobody came from any mosque to lead her funeral, her crime being that she was the mother of an "infidel," her website says. Nasreen said in an interview earlier this year with local media she had become "more generous" in her writing since her exile. "When I read some of my earlier writings, I am surprised at the language I used... I understand more now."

Muslim activists, led by three state legislators, who hurled copies of her book at her and shouted for her death, assaulted her in southern Hyderabad city in August 2007. Majlis-e-Ittehadul Musalmeen legislators and their army of hoodlums barged into a press conference hall in Hyderabad to vent their ire on the exiled Bangladesh novelist and social commentator, Taslima Nasreen and assaulted her before an assembly of media persons and television cameras makes Muslim leaders and intellectuals strongly condemned the attack on Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen terming the incident as "shameful" and "barbaric". "The incident was outrageous and shameful.

In a civilised society, you have a right to approve or disapprove of anything," noted lyricist and author Javed Akhtar said. Observing that fundamentalists are becoming "bolder and bolder by the day," he said, "these (the attackers) are the same people who criticise Bajrang Dal and VHP. What is the difference between them and the Hindu fundamentalist organisations.”

"Fundamentalists are getting bolder and bolder as they can get away with almost anything. That is the problem," Akhtar said. Delhi Minorities Commission Chairperson Kamal Farooqui said the incident was condemnable, especially as three MLAs were involved in it. But, he said, the government should also ensure that Nasreen is not allowed to do or write anything, which hurts the sentiments of Muslims. "The government should immediately cancel her visa and make her go out of the country," he said adding, "she should realise that this is not Bangladesh or Pakistan, but India where the sentiments of all communities are respected.” Activists of a Muslim group on Thursday disrupted a book release function in Hyderabad attended by Nasreen and attempted to assault her though she escaped unhurt.

- To be continued -

Rajen Thakur, an author , researcher and columnist.

- Asian Tribune -

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