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‘Welcome’, but Delhi has to shield Taslima

Calcutta/New Delhi, Dec. 25: Jyoti Basu today said Taslima Nasreen was welcome back in Calcutta, but with a rider — the Centre has to provide her with security.

“If she wants to come back, she is welcome. She had come to my place twice and gave me her book Dwikhandito to read,’’ he said, adding: “It is up to the Centre to provide her security.”

He also appreciates what foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Parliament regarding her: that “guests” should not do something that hurts the sentiments of the people in India.

“Her (Taslima’s) opinion about Quran and Mohammad wouldn’t be acceptable to religious persons. We had to proscribe the book once. Many people, including anti-socials, turned against the book and that led to the trouble (street riots in Calcutta on November 21). Some thought they would reach God by killing her,” Basu said.

Worried about an electoral backlash from a section of the minority community, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had kept mum on Taslima while his party leaders slammed her at select public meetings.

The Union home ministry said Basu’s statement welcoming Taslima was no more than a formality because of the condition he attached to the invitation.

Sources said it was not feasible for the Centre to provide security to Taslima in another state. “The only way the Centre can provide security to Taslima in Calcutta is by deploying Black Cat commandos of the National Security Guard. That would mean giving her Z-plus security, putting her in the category of much-thre- atened and much-protected VIPs,” said an official.

Taslima is now in an NSG safe house. Even if Black Cat commandos are deployed in another state, the security of the house where the protected person is staying is the responsibility of the state.

There is a drill to be followed in case Taslima has to be provided NSG cover. “First, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) would have to study the threat perception and see if she fits into the category of the country’s most threatened people,” the official said. “The home ministry would take a decision on the basis of the IB’s recommendation and the union cabinet would have to okay it.”

Going by the procedure, Taslima’s situation is unlikely to change in a hurry even if Basu’s offer is taken seriously.

The author thanked Basu for his gesture. “I’m grateful to Jyoti Basu for expressing his concern and saying I was welcome in Calcutta,” she said.

Support for Buddha

Basu iterated his support for the chief minister on industrialisation. “Bengal had a bad name earlier. But investment is coming under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee,” he said.

“We had fought the Congress but never opposed the drive for industrialisation by Dr BC Roy’s government. How can we solve the huge problem of unemployment if industries don’t come up?” he asked.

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