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Sleuth swoop on Taslima publisher

Midnight swoop and morning interrogation marked Day I of the ban on Dwikhandita (Split in Two) as the crackdown spread from the publisher’s house to the printing press.

In a swoop that started around midnight and carried on through much of Friday, city police seized 1,475 copies of Taslima Nasreen’s latest autobiographical work from the office of People’s Book Society and the printing press on CIT Road.

The sleuths also seized 1,400 cover-pages and 450 unbound copies of the book from the binder’s residence, close to the People’s Book Society office and the printing press.

Shibani Mukherjee, Nasreen’s publisher, was summoned to Lalbazar on Friday morning, for interrogation. She was quizzed for over an hour in the office of Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department. “We clarified whether the list of the books published and distributed, that had been handed over to us on Thursday, was complete,” said Mitra, after Shibani’s interrogation.

Shibani’s first brush with the police came even before the ban had been enforced officially, on Thursday afternoon, when she was summoned to the office of Sanjoy Mukherjee, deputy commissioner, special branch.

“He spoke to me for over two hours. Though the discussion was friendly, he wanted to know how I would handle it if the book causes social unrest,” she recounted to Metro on Friday.

Hours before sunrise on Friday, six policemen from the anti-rowdy squad and press sections of the detective department, accompanied by two employees of People’s Book Society, Sailen Dutta and Mohini Pal, turned up at Shibani’s house in Belghoria.

“I had to face several irrelevant questions during the two-hour interrogation. The sleuths even wanted to know how I had come into contact with Taslima Nasreen,” said Shibani.

The publisher’s interrogation followed the raids conducted soon after the notification banning the book reached Lalbazar. The notification clearly directed police to seize all copies of the book available in the city markets, as pages 49 and 50 of the book could spark “communal disharmony”. Accordingly, the books were seized under Section 153A of the IPC (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion).

The starting point of the raids was the College Street office of the publishing house. Shibani said four policemen in plain clothes entered her office after midnight. Deputy commissioner Mitra, overseeing the raids, said on Friday that the publisher had printed 5,000 copies of the book, of which 2,000 copies have already been sold. “If anyone is found with the book in his possession, he will be prosecuted according to law,” announced Mitra.

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