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Taslima ready to stay in Bengali hub

New Delhi/Calcutta, Dec. 22: Taslima Nasreen today said it was not the Centre but she who had suggested that she stay at Chittaranjan Park in the capital.

Government sources said this was the first time they were hearing that Taslima had no problem staying at CR Park. Till now, it had only been Calcutta or nothing for her.

Seeing it as a positive signal, the government said the controversial author was probably looking for a face-saver. “Providing security to Taslima at CR Park is not impossible. Dacoit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi also stayed there under Delhi police protection. She was shot dead after she shifted to her Ashoka Road residence,” said an official.

Sources said Taslima had told officials “how can you compare Calcutta with a small locality” when they offered her accommodation at the Bengali hub in south Delhi.

In an interview to The Telegraph today, she indicated willingness to comply with all the conditions set by the government. “I’m willing to stay with security if it could be arranged. I told them (the officials) that I would avoid public places, wouldn’t attend meetings and seminars, just keep in touch with my friends and write from time to time. That’s all I had wanted.

“I know this is not possible in Calcutta right now so I just wanted to know if I could lead a normal life like this in Delhi. If I could have security living in a house where some of my friends would be able to drop in and if I could go meet them sometimes.”

External affairs ministry joint director Amit Dasgupta, whose name figured frequently in Taslima’s conversation with the newspaper, declined comment.

Taslima said the day Dasgupta met her to inform her about the government’s decision regarding her stay in Delhi, she had said she wanted to stay at CR Park. “I told him that if he felt I needed security, let me be given that kind of protection. If there’s a threat to one’s life, one has to live with security like I used to in Calcutta,” Taslima said.

According to her, Dasgupta did not agree to her staying at CR Park or any other place in Delhi. “He said I couldn’t return to Calcutta either. So I asked him how long it would take for me to return to normal life and he said they did not know and could not say anything at this moment.”

The official apparently gave her security concern as the reason. “Amitbabu has not been able to convince me of this need for security where I will have to continue living in hiding. I am under great confusion,” Taslima said.

She iterated her complaint that she was under very tight security and was not allowed to meet anybody. “I can’t go anywhere, no one can meet me.”

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee denied the suggestion that Taslima was under “house arrest”.

Asked by reporters in Calcutta today about possible restrictions on her return from Delhi, Mukherjee said: “She is not under house arrest.”

The government’s policy, he said, was to make all appropriate arrangements for the safe stay of a guest.

“We have communicated to her that she can stay in the country as long as she wants, which is our rule here,” the foreign minister said.

Those looking after Taslima in Delhi have been asked to set right any problem she might face during her stay.

“At the same time, our guest should not do anything that may hurt the sentiments of any section of the population.”

Taslima, Mukherjee added, had to be put in a secure place because of “trouble over her in some parts of the country, including Calcutta”.

“One must try understand that she had been staying in Calcutta before being shifted. She must think it over why she had to leave Calcutta.”

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