Nov. 23: Taslima Nasreen has become a nowhere woman, hounded out of Bengal by the Left Front government that has refused to take her back.
Hopping through the day from one undisclosed location to another, the Bangladeshi author surfaced in Delhi tonight as a guest of the Rajasthan government.
By the time the extraordinary hide-and-seek game reached the heart of Delhi from a modest hotel in Jaipur, the “secular” Bengal government was squirming in embarrassment and its BJP-led Rajasthan counterpart was firing on all cylinders.
The Vasundhara Raje-headed Rajasthan government bluntly accused Bengal police of refusing to allow Taslima to return to Calcutta despite her desire to do so by a flight from Jaipur this morning.
“…Unlike what was done by Govt. of West Bengal, Govt. of Rajasthan decided to apprise West Bengal Police about the planned arrangements based entirely on the wishes expressed by Ms. Nasrin. The W.B. Police simply refused to countenance this idea,” the statement said.
Bengal police denied the communication. But a Calcutta police officer told The Telegraph: “There is no question of agreeing to let Taslima come back in the next few days. We have managed to bring the situation under control and we don’t want anything to upset that.”
He was referring to Wednesday’s explosion of violence demanding Taslima’s ouster. Such a categorical assertion could not have come without a green signal from the political leadership which tried to scotch suggestions that the state government had persuaded Taslima to leave.
The Throw-Taslima-Out plan was unwittingly spilled by CPM state secretary Biman Bose who, after a self-confessed tired day in office, said she should leave “if her presence causes disturbances”. Bose backtracked later but the damage had been done.
Pranab Mukherjee is now trying to douse the fire lit by Bose. The external affairs minister, in the absence of the Prime Minister who is in Kampala, today chaired a meeting of the cabinet committee on security where Taslima was discussed.
The Centre is expected to take over the custodianship of Taslima tomorrow.
Sources said Mukherjee spoke to Taslima and told her that the government would put her up in a safe house where she could stay for the next few days till the Calcutta atmosphere improved. The sources said Taslima had agreed to stay in the safe house for the next few days.
The author did get a taste of a safe house — a National Security Guard facility in Haryana’s Manesar. That was one of the places Taslima was taken today after she left the Jaipur hotel at 5.45am.
For around 17 hours, information on her whereabouts was blacked out to ensure that the convoy did not run into security hazards, fuelling feverish speculation and reports of countless — but unconfirmed — “sightings”.
The Rajasthan government decided to shift her after the location of the hotel became public knowledge and a minority outfit threatened to launch an agitation.
In the evening, the Rajasthan government issued the formal statement, saying it was “left with no alternative except to have Ms Nasrin as a guest… till such time” the Union home ministry took the final view.
Sources in Delhi and Jaipur said Raje was “extremely unhappy” with the Bengal government which virtually “forced” the author on the Rajasthan government.
Raje feels that the manner in which the issue was handled “lacked courtesy” as there was no contact even at the level of the chief secretaries of the two governments.
So peeved was Raje that she called up Union home minister Shivraj Patil to convey her unhappiness. It was after this that Mukherjee took the matter up.
The Raje government said the police “roped in” an office-bearer of the Rajasthan Foundation to arrange accommodation in Jaipur. Sundeep Bhutoria, the person mentioned, has denied he had anything to do with the police but said he arranged the hotel accommodation. (See accompanying account)
Bengal officials conceded in private that the state government had once again “bungled” in virtually forcing Taslima to leave the city. They said that just the way Mukherjee was trying to arrange a safe house, the state government could have explored a similar option in Bengal that has several such facilities.
Deputy commissioner Vineet Goyal, tasked with monitoring Taslima’s movements in Calcutta, said he had spoken to her yesterday. Sources said Goyal had instructed Taslima to leave the city but he denied telling her so.