Sir — The fracas between the Centre and the Indian Institutes of Management over the subject of autonomy has got its fair share of publicity. It is time for us in Bengal to turn our attention to a similar attempt to deny autonomy to deserving colleges here. The report, “Govt between crores and colleges” (Nov 29), gives the impression that for the government this is a difficult decision to make and that there is a lot at stake. It is not difficult to see why the government should be sitting on the decision. Autonomy to certain colleges may upgrade them, make them eligible for lucrative grants from the University Grants Commission, and even better the educational pattern in the state. But all that is not good enough for the Left Front, which would like to retain its finger in this particular pie. Colleges, teachers and students offer an easy route to the perpetuation of the left’s influence in crucial sections of the electorate and society as a whole. When that game-plan is threatened, it is natural the left would feel very protective about its territory.
Chaitali Chakraborty, Calcutta
Sir — The official ban on Taslima Nasreen’s Dwikhandita will achieve the same purpose that the ban on Samaresh Basu’s Bibar and Prajapati and Buddhadeva Bose’s Raatbhor Brishti had achieved (“Red rag in Taslima, red carpet for Deepa”, Nov 29). The controversy that a ban generates and the ensuing media coverage only make thousands of people all the more inquisitive about what a banned book contains. This includes even people who would have otherwise ignored the book. Besides, it is virtually impossible to implement such bans in this age of information technology, communication and entertainment boom. They are also counterproductive. There is a strong possibility that Dwikhandita will soon be translated into English and other languages, which means the book will still be accessible, in languages other than Bengali as also in other mediums. By banning the book, the West Bengal government has only unwittingly pushed up its sales.
Asit Kumar Mitra, Calcutta
Sir — Although Taslima Nasreen says of her Dwikhandita that “I have nothing to be ashamed of” (Nov 30), there is no doubt the book has controversial bits. One concerns her relationships with men, which has managed to incite those who have been named. The book is like a diary and the veracity of what has been written can only be confirmed or challenged by those mentioned in it. The more general reader has to go by his gut feelings in accepting or rejecting the book. It is strange that the government has decided to ban the book, using communal harmony as a plea, before the reader could take any decision of his own. Nasreen is entitled to her freedom of expression, the government cannot clamp down on it. Besides, readers also have their own freedom to assess a book and decide for themselves.
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — The West Bengal government’s decision to ban Taslima Nasreen’s book will only ensure its clandestine sale, maybe under a different title.
Nabendu Pandey, via email
Sir — The state government may have had its social and political compulsions to ban the sale of Dwikhandita, but the media and the litigants could have desisted from giving Taslima Nasreen free publicity. One wonders if Nasreen can be attributed with any literary intelligence at all. Her Lajja had managed to draw similar flak. In fact, the current book only confirms Nasreen’s attempt to sensationalize her writing, whether on religion or sex. She reminds one of Jessica Lynch who went to great lengths to ensure that her book got all the publicity it needed.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — The ban on Dwikhandita was simply a classic act of appeasing a crucial vote bank of the Left Front, without a thought being spared for what the action portends for the freedom of expression in a liberal society. By taking this retrograde step, the so-called secularists of Bengal have acquired a status no different from the fundamentalists they protest against.
R. Sambamurthy, Calcutta
Sir — By steering clear of the anticipated chaos Dwikhandita would invite, the state government has demonstrated that it is in no position to handle mischief-makers, whatever their religious affiliation. Besides, things in this state seem to have come to such a pass that the government appears to have more confidence in the judgment of some pseudo-secularists than on that of readers.
Ramesh Dewan, Calcutta
Sir — Shobhaa Dé uses her glamour and media connections to sell her books and nobody seems to have a problem with that. So why do we have a problem when Taslima Nasreen decides to cash in on her colourful life to sell her books' Ideally, there should be no objections to publicity gimmicks since every author, big and small, does it.
Arta Mishra, Cuttack
Sir — The ban on Dwikhandita seems to be a hurried attempt by the government to control the possible defamation of one of the petititioners. Political connections work wonders in this state.
Arunava Choudhury, Calcutta
Sir — How could a book written by an exiled Bangladeshi about her experience with her fellow intellectuals in Bangladesh and beyond cause communal disharmony in West Bengal' The state government seems to have been arm-twisted by the minority intellectuals for some ulterior motive.
Dropati Agrawal, Noida