Aug. 9: Some said it with flowers, others were more bookish, but the “welcome” will go down as one of the most shameful by India’s elected representatives.
Taslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi author, barely escaped being assaulted by protesters of a Muslim group at Hyderabad Press Club, where she had gone for a book launch today.
The protesters, led by three legislators of the Majlis-e-Itahadul-Musalmeen, threw books, bags and bouquets at the exiled writer, whose novel Lajja — or shame — was banned in her country for hurting Muslim religious feelings.
One of the lawmakers, Moazam Khan, even tried to hurl a chair at her. Another preferred a laptop.
“It is barbaric and unbecoming of Hyderabad, known for its hospitality and peaceful co-existence,” Taslima, 45, said before being whisked away by police to Begumpet airport where she caught a flight to Calcutta.
Taslima’s visit had been kept a secret but the MIM, which last year supported burning Lajja in public, got wind of the launch, where a translation of one of her books was being released.
“Taslima go away, Taslima murdabad,” the protesters shouted. The author backed into a corner as the group advanced towards the dais. She huddled under a table but was hit twice and ended up with a bruised forehead. The event’s organiser, N. Innaiah, bled from the mouth after being hit.
Ironically, the attack may have the unintended impact of bringing her back from the sidelines, where she has been for the past few years.
It could have been worse for Taslima had the organisers not thrown a protective ring around her. “But for some journalists, photographers and employees of the press club, Taslima would have surely been hit,” said Mohammed Ghouse, an employee.
Police said they were not aware of the author’s presence in Hyderabad. “We didn’t know about the visit,” said commissioner Balwinder Singh.
The three MIM legislators — Muqtada Khan, 58, who counts wrestling among his other skills; Moazam Khan, 37; and Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri, 55 — and four other party workers were produced before a magistrate and let off on bail. “Cases have been filed against them and charges will be framed after informing the Speaker,” police officials said.
MIM chief Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi described the attack as “unfortunate” but said Taslima should not have come to Hyderabad knowing the sentiments of the city’s conservative Muslims.
His son Akbaruddin was more vocal. “If you ever come to Hyderabad again, you will not go back alive,” he told a crowd of supporters in a clear warning to the author.
At the airport, Taslima, whose visa expires this month, said she would “definitely come back to Hyderabad, if there is an opportunity”.
In Calcutta, her first words were: “They were led by an MLA.”
“I thought I wouldn’t survive. A hit or two on the head with a chair would have been enough to finish me off.”
Bengal home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said Taslima’s security would be reviewed. About her visa, he said he has heard that the Centre has extended it by six months.