The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Four pages that fell foul

The minority communities in both India (Calcutta) and Bangladesh (Dhaka) share a common fate, Nasreen can tell from the experiences she has shared with a Calcutta-based poet. From his description of the minority community in Calcutta, she can feel how the minority community in her country of birth, too, suffers the same tribulations and frustrations.

Describing the three-night affair she had with a Calcutta-based poet, Taslima Nasreen details how he came to her after drinking for a good part of the night. But she did not say no — not because she could not say no, but because she did not want to say no — Nasreen recalls. The poet she is talking about, she surmises from his response to her speech at a cultural function after their encounter, wants to keep intimacy under the cover of night; it is all right as long as it does not surface in the daytime.

What do the four pages penned by Taslima Nasreen contain' What made Calcutta-based poet Syed Hasmat Jalal, younger brother of writer Syed Mustafa Siraj and known to be a liberal in the community, see red' And what led Calcutta High Court to issue an interim order ex parte, without letting the author — now doing a fellowship at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy in Harvard University — answer the charges'

The high court has issued an interim order, temporarily freezing publication and sales of the 395-page Dwikhandita (Amar Meyebela-III), before Nasreen has been able to reply to the charges levelled by Jalal regarding four objectionable pages (197, 198, 231 and 232).

What Jalal has drawn particular attention to are Nasreen’s stated experiences with him in Calcutta and Santiniketan.

The first two pages detail how the minority community in Calcutta allegedly shares a common fate — of denied opportunities and resultant frustrations — with the minority community in Dhaka.

The second set of two pages are more personal in nature, reconstructing a relation and conversations Nasreen shared with Jalal in Calcutta and Santiniketan.

The visit to the poet’s residence, in a congested Park Circus neighbourhood, opened up a different Calcutta to her eyes, Nasreen admits. The physical abominations of a minority neighbourhood, she comes to know, reflects the socio-cultural fate to which the community has resigned itself.

These thoughts take her back to the state of the minority community in her native Bangladesh, as she wonders how the two different communities share a common experience of unfair tribulations and consequent frustrations.

The other set of two pages deals with experiences that are far more personal in nature. Nasreen goes back to the three nights she says she spent with Jalal in the city and explains why she did not say no to his advances. It was not that she could not say no, she says, but the fact that she did not want to say no that led her on.

But more encounters with the fellow-author skewed the relationship somewhat, Nasreen says. The Calcutta-based author’s reservations about her excessive use of sexual innuendo in a cultural function irked her and led her on to see that her friend was comfortable with that aspect of life as long as it was kept under wraps, Nasreen says.

She got her own back when the Calcutta-based writer visited her in Dhaka. She hardly ever met him and, deliberately, kept herself aloof from his life in Dhaka. There was no wanting in hospitality, but there was a coldness, Nasreen adds, which her friend from Calcutta could surely have felt. It was deliberate to make her friend understand that she was not to be had for the asking, Nasreen says.

Justice Jayanta Kumar Biswas, in his interim order, has restrained the “publication, sale, marketing and circulation” of the book till the next date of hearing, that comes off a fortnight from Tuesday (when the order was delivered).

He has also appointed a receiver to take charge of the affairs of the publishing house (People’s Book Society) and publisher Shibani Mukherjee, working out of an office at 12C, Bankim Chatterjee Street. Mukherjee was not available for comment on Wednesday.

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