The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘She wanted to be back’

Sundeep Bhutoria, 33, tells The Telegraph about his interactions with Taslima Nasreen over the past three days. He is the person referred to by the Rajasthan government in its official release as an “office bearer of Rajasthan Foundation”.

Taslima Nasreen had gone to Jaipur last year to attend a function organised by me at Raj Bhavan. I have met her socially on a few occasions since then.

On Wednesday evening, I went to meet her regarding a party I had hosted that she had been unable to attend. She was watching TV in her 7, Rawdon Street flat.

“Look what is happening,” she said, pointing to images of rioting on TV.

As a banner of “Go back, Taslima” came into focus, she shuddered and said: “If I choose to go away to Rajasthan or Gujarat for some time, can you help arrange for my accommodation'”

I said if required, I could arrange accommodation as that is something we keep doing for acquaintances through my contacts in Rajasthan.

On Thursday morning, she called to ask that if she decided on Jaipur, whether it would be safe for her and I could arrange a hotel room at short notice. I said that the wedding season was on and so the leading hotels would all be full, but something would be managed.

On Thursday afternoon, around 2pm, she called to say she was leaving for Jaipur with her brother and that I must arrange for a hotel or guest-house in a safe place at once.

I rang up a few friends and finally got her a booking in Hotel Shikha, in the high-security C-Scheme. I communicated this to her. She asked for a car to be sent to the airport in Jaipur at 5pm.

After reaching the hotel in Jaipur, she called me to complain that the accommodation was not nice or safe. I said this was the best that could be arranged under the circumstances.

Throughout the night, she was paranoid about photographers clicking her on the sly and people breaking into her room.

The strong security cordon provided to her by the state government did not satisfy her and she kept calling and expressing her fears.

By 3am, she seemed determined to get out of Rajasthan and return to Bengal.

She said since I had arranged for her accommodation in Jaipur, I must also arrange for her return tickets by the earliest flight. I assured her that if she wanted, two tickets on the IndiGo flight from Jaipur to Calcutta (6E-207 leaving at 7.45am) could be arranged.

But then she changed her mind and said she did not want to return to Calcutta at once, as it was not safe for her.

She said she and her brother wanted to stay on in Rajasthan for a few days and requested me to provide her with the contact numbers of Rambag Palace and Rajputana Sheraton. I did so.

I haven’t spoken to her since then.

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