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At wits’ end: Both Taslima and Delhi

Dec. 20: Forget Calcutta, get used to the safe house in Delhi or consider leaving India, Taslima Nasreen has apparently been told by the Centre.

Union home ministry sources in Delhi attributed the diktat to a refusal by the Bengal government to host her in Calcutta.

But claims by CPM sources and comments by officials handling her suggest political manoeuvres and the Bangladeshi author’s impatience to return to Calcutta could also have played a part in prompting the Centre to lay down the conditions.

The home ministry sources said Taslima had been told that she could stay in the capital, where adequate security would be provided to her. However, when Taslima said she wanted to stay in Calcutta or nowhere, she was politely told that she could leave the country and go wherever she wanted.

Taslima, ripping a Centre-advised gag, told The Telegraph this evening that an official ó “Amit Dasgupta from the foreign ministry” ó conveyed the government’s decision to her yesterday. The foreign ministry’s public diplomacy division has a joint secretary named Amit Dasgupta who said “no comments”, asked whether he spoke to Taslima.

If Taslima continues to insist that she is not willing to stay on in Delhi, the home ministry has the option of not extending her visa beyond its expiry date on February 17.

Under the original plan, the Bengal government was expected to accept her back after things cooled down in Calcutta.

CPM sources said “nothing had happened in the last few days” to warrant the ultimatum. They hinted that the Congress was also keen to distance itself from the author now that the Gujarat polls were over. No mainstream party, other than the BJP which has little to lose, had spoken up for Taslima, fearing a backlash.

The CPM sources also found the timing of the central message intriguing and wondered whether it was intended to create an impression that the Bengal government was on board. Bengal CPM leaders, including chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, are in Delhi now on government as well as party business.

Officially, both the Congress and the CPM refused to go into the merit of the message and stuck to the stand that it was up to the Centre to decide.

Home ministry sources insisted that the Bengal government had been dilly-dallying, never making a commitment on taking her back. “These were only delaying tactics by the state government,” an official said.

The home ministry sources said the Bengal CPM leadership could have conveyed to foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was in Calcutta on Sunday, that the state government’s problems should not be compounded by sending Taslima back to Calcutta.

Taslima, who has described her stay in Delhi as “house arrest”, has been getting restive, sources said. She keeps asking officials who are in touch with her to let her go back to Calcutta.

Taslima got in touch with her friends Sharmila Sengupta and Ashesh Sanyal last week and requested them to send her some personal belongings. Ashesh, along with his family, reached Delhi this morning with a suitcase.

“I could not hand over the suitcase as we did not have permission to meet her. People in charge of her security have assured me that I may get permission in a day or two,” Ashesh said this evening.

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