The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt buys six months on Taslima

New Delhi, March 28: The Union home ministry is yet to decide on Taslima Nasreen's request for Indian citizenship but recommended that the Bangladeshi novelist be given a six-month visa so that she can stay in Calcutta.

'We have recommended a six-month multi-entry visa,' a senior bureaucrat said after home minister Shivraj Patil approved a proposal by ministry officials on Taslima's request. However, this is a one-time decision and a fresh view would need to be taken after six months.

The recommendation is being communicated to the Bengal government and security agencies for their assessment. The official did not clarify what kind of visa the novelist was being given, but emphasised that it would not allow her to 'work'.

Taslima had last month approached Patil to seek a residence permit or Indian citizenship to allow her to stay back in Calcutta.

The writer, in self-exile since 1994 after religious fundamentalists in Bangladesh charged her with blasphemy and issued death threats against her, fears that if she does not stay in Bengal, 'the writer in me will die gradually'. Taslima's literary works have been in Bengali.

Home ministry officials suggest comments received from Bengal and the external affairs ministry would be crucial to deciding on her request for citizenship.

The Bengal government is learnt to have reservations on the author making the state her second home and the external affairs ministry is believed to have linked its stand on her citizenship request to what Bangladesh does to Ulfa leader Anup Chetia.

South Block has opposed a previous citizenship request to ensure that it does not affect relations with Dhaka.

The Bengal government is currently defending in Calcutta High Court its ban on her book Dwikhandito.

The ban had initially been imposed on the ground that the administration feared tension would escalate between two religious communities. The state later banned it again, arguing that it attempted to 'hurt the religious sentiment of a particular community'.

The six-month visa, home ministry officials said, does not imply that the government has decided on Taslima's citizenship, though there are indications that Delhi is unlikely to go out of its way for her.

One eligibility criteria for naturalised Indian citizenship is that the person should have stayed in the country for at least 10 of the preceding 13 years.

However, the government can waive this mandatory period if 'the applicant is a person who has rendered distinguished service to the cause of science, philosophy, art, literature, world peace or human progress generally'.

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