Nov. 22: Taslima Nasreen left Calcutta for Jaipur this afternoon, handing the BJP a public relations trophy weeks before the Gujarat elections.
“Please don’t ask me such questions. But I’m in a terrible state,” she said over the phone this evening, when asked if the Bengal government had told her to move.
Pressed further, the controversial Bangladeshi author said: “It is the Calcutta police who told me….”
To move to Rajasthan' “Please don’t ask me. You’ve mentioned the name. I’m very tired,” she said.
However, sources told The Telegraph that Taslima had been toying with the idea of moving to Rajasthan or Gujarat for some time and made up her mind last evening.
“Taslima Nasreen had attended a function organised by Rajasthan Foundation at the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur last year. She had liked Rajasthan a lot and said she would like to return there. She called a member of the foundation late yesterday to ask if accommodation could be arranged in Jaipur at the earliest. A room was then booked for her in Hotel Shikha,” said a source in the Rajasthan Foundation.
Sources said she left by Flight IC267 this afternoon, accompanied by a man. She was booked under the name T. Khan and allotted seat 1F.
“Go Back Taslima” was the slogan of the rioters who rampaged through central Calcutta yesterday.
The CPM, which had banned her book Dwikhandito, made it clear after the clashes that the author was not welcome in the state.
Party state secretary Biman Bose, who last night backtracked on an initial comment suggesting Taslima should leave, said today it was for the Centre to decide on the demand for cancellation of her visa. “It’s the prerogative of the Centre alone,” he said.
Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim echoed him: “The Centre sanctions her visa…. So, if she has been a cause for disturbances, then the state government should write to the Centre about the problem.”
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee refused to comment.
Sources said it was conveyed to Taslima that she should leave Bengal after she was attacked by a crowd in Hyderabad in August.
Pankaj Kumar Singh, IG, Jaipur Range, said: “Taslima said she is very scared…. She might stay on for some days.”
The room tariff at Hotel Shikha in the upscale C-Scheme area ranges between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500.
A BJP source said the author decided to move to Rajasthan after chief minister Vasundhara Raje promised her round-the-clock security.
Vasundhara, who only consulted L.K. Advani, could use the move to project herself as a “saviour” of women and “liberal” Muslims.
“Let us see how things shape up,” party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
But a BJP source said the party would use the development to puncture the Left’s claim that its states were a “secular” bastion. It would also go to town saying the Left had “caved in” to pressure from Muslim fundamentalists.
The CPM is worried the BJP could use Taslima as its own Qutubuddin Ansari. The tailor who became the face of the Gujarat riots after he was photographed begging for his life with folded hands had been given shelter in Bengal.
The Centre is unlikely to cancel Taslima’s visa, valid till February 17, or to renew it once it lapses, sources in the home ministry said.