Far from home
Sir — The former Bengal chief minister, Jyoti Basu, has welcomed Taslima Nasreen back to Calcutta, but added that the responsibility of the author’s security lies with the Centre (“Welcome but Delhi has to shield Taslima”, Dec 26). Taslima, who was forced to leave Calcutta in November, continues to remain under the Centre’s supervision in Delhi. This is surely not the way to treat a guest from another country. The decision on Delhi’s part not to send her back to Calcutta must have come as a blow to the author. Taslima has always raised her voice against injustice and bigotry, thereby earning the wrath of fundamentalists in Bangladesh. She had hoped that the Indian government would prove to be more understanding and supportive, considering the fact that our Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and expression.
It is a shame that the Centre has chosen to treat Taslima in the manner that it has. If, after all this, Taslima gives up writing, it will be a big loss for the entire literary world. All nations must respect writers for they have the ability to show right from wrong. New Delhi must grant Taslima the freedom to live and write as she chooses. Otherwise, it will dent India’s image in front of the international community.
Shailesh Kumar, Bangalore
Sir —Taslima Nasreen’s stay in Delhi is akin to living in prison. She has not been allowed to attend programmes, whether literary or political. Worse, the government has also restricted her movement. This is truly shocking, especially on the part of a country that had been sympathetic to Taslima’s cause earlier and helped her when she was in trouble. Moreover, as an independent writer, Taslima has the right to express her own views.
It is a pity that Calcutta has become unsafe for Taslima. Is this because even Calcutta’s liberals are unable to face up to the truth in Taslima’s writings? Some Muslims in Calcutta may have been offended by what Taslima has written. But they have no right to threaten the author with death. The Central government must make arrangements for Taslima’s return and ensure her safety and freedom in this country.
Moumita Sengupta, Calcutta
Sir — The Taslima Nasreen episode has been dragging on for a while now. Those who are in favour of her staying in Calcutta should realize one thing: the author can continue to live in the city if she abides by the country’s laws and does not attract adverse public sentiments. Had an Indian citizen created unrest in another country, as Taslima has done, would that country allow the person to stay on? Even if Taslima were to upset Americans while staying in the US — a free world in the truest sense — she would have been bundled into the first flight back for home. Indians, by nature, are a large- hearted people. But we should take care to ensure that people like Taslima do not try and take advantage of our hospitality. The Centre should send Taslima home at the earliest. She is Bangladesh’s problem, not India’s.
S. Kamat, Goa
Sir — Taslima Nasreen was first moved to Rajasthan, a state under the rule of the ‘communal’ Bharatiya Janata Party, after being hounded out of Calcutta by a ‘secular’ Bengal government. The Congress, which is in power at the Centre, and always the one to flaunt its secular credentials, then stepped in and took over the responsibility of keeping Taslima safe. The home ministry, fearing an attempt on Taslima by religious fanatics, moved the author to a secret location. There, Taslima reportedly did not even have access to a hair dresser, Bengali newspapers, her favourite food, and even television (“Bad hair days, short of colour”, Dec 9). It is shocking to see the government mistreating an eminent writer. One shudders to think how long Taslima would have to put up with this. It seems the Indian State can only protect an individual from a few fundamentalists by putting the victim under virtual house arrest.
S.B. Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — As a practising Hindu, associated with several major temples and other religious bodies, I feel deeply disturbed at the acts of some persons in their attacks on various Christian churches in Orissa, in the process of which one person is reported to have been killed and several others injured. Some years ago, another affiliate body of the same organization murdered a missionary and his children by burning them alive. Though these bodies claim to be acting on behalf of Hindus, they target the very basic tenets of Hinduism, which preach equality of religions and universal brotherhood. I firmly believe that all of us aim at the same goal, whether he is called Allah, Krishna or Christ or by any other name. The paths to that goal may vary but this does not change the fact that we all aim to reach the same destination. Our own Hindu scriptures clearly state that the goal is one, although the paths to reach it may be many. It is strange how in the face of these cultural and religious tenets of the Hindu religion, some groups indulge in needless violence in the name of the same religion and besmirch its fair name.
S.K. Birla, Calcutta