The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Worried about communal strife, Bengal readies Taslima book ban

Calcutta, Nov. 27: The Bengal government is banning Taslima Nasreen’s controversial book, Dwikhandita (Split in Two), sources in the home department told The Telegraph.

Home secretary Amit Kiran Deb confirmed the move: “The Bengal government has already taken an official stand to proscribe the book. The order will be issued tomorrow.”

The government action follows apprehension that certain portions of the book may cause communal disharmony. “The book makes objectionable remarks against a particular community in pages 49 and 50 and the government has felt it could incite ill-feeling,” an official said.

Some Muslim intellectuals have written to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asking the government to confiscate the book because it contains passages that denigrate the Prophet and Islam, which could be used by mischief-makers. The petition was signed by author Syed Mustafa Siraj, state planning commission member, Islamic history scholar Osman Ghani and the editor of the weekly, Qalam, Ahmad Hassan Imran.

The pages in question contain passages such as this: “The history of Islam says that the Arabs used to live in caves, they used to bury girl children and Mohammed put an end to all the misery. However, misery I think has increased…”

A notification banning the book will be announced tomorrow, but a typed copy has already been released by the government.

“Once the order is issued, the government will pass on the message to the director-general of police and the city police commissioner and ask the enforcement branch to seize copies of the book from the market,” a home department official said.

The seizure began late tonight. The police took away 2,000 copies of the book from the College Street area, publisher Shibani Mukherjee said. “They also came to my house to question me and wanted to know how I contact Taslima,” she added.

Calcutta High Court had already stopped sale of the autobiographical book by the Bangladeshi author in exile for a fortnight since November 18 on a petition by a little-known poet, Syed Hasmat Jalal, who has filed a Rs 11-crore defamation suit alleging that the writer has presented a distorted view of his moral and religious standing.

Taslima has written about her physical intimacy with Jalal.

Siraj, who is among those to have petitioned the government for a ban, is Jalal’s elder brother.

Speaking to The Telegraph from Harvard University, where she is working on a fellowship, the author challenged Jalal, claiming that whatever she has written is true.

Taslima is no stranger to book bans. Lajja, which preceded Dwikhandita, was proscribed in Bangladesh for the same reason that the Bengal government is citing now.

India, too, has been a ban-happy nation. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was blacked out by Delhi. Calcutta follows suit.

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