The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM on Nasreen: No govt should cave in

New Delhi, Nov. 25: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conveyed to his colleagues that no government should succumb to the “blackmail tactics” of fundamentalist elements from any religion, sources close to him said.

The sources disclosed this in response to a BJP resolution today that accused the Prime Minister of maintaining “customary silence” on the Taslima Nasreen controversy.

The view of Singh, who returned to Delhi this morning after a week abroad, has not yet been articulated in public.

The manner in which the Prime Minister’s “views” have now been revealed suggests the government is not averse to taking a swipe or two at the Left without appearing to derive pleasure from the CPM-led Bengal government’s acute discomfiture.

“The Prime Minister said fundamentalist elements of any religion, not a particular one,” a source stressed, keen to ensure that the BJP does not cash in on it.

The clarification seemed aimed at sections in the Congress, too, which are not sure about the impact of the Taslima controversy on the electoral field.

The sources said the comments against succumbing to fundamentalist forces were “exactly” what Singh conveyed from Uganda to foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is handling the Taslima issue, and home minister Shivraj Patil.

The Prime Minister also emphasised that the Centre should ensure foolproof security for Taslima.

M. Veerappa Moily, who heads the Congress media cell, endorsed Singh’s views. “The Congress condemns Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism. We will never allow such groups to gain the upper hand,” he said over the phone from Bangalore.

Asked if he had spoken to the Prime Minister after the Taslima episode, Moily said: “No. But as the chairperson of the media cell, I know what the Congress policy is and I speak with a full sense of responsibility.”

He said Taslima, like other valid visa holders, would get full state protection as long as she did not indulge in any activity that was “detrimental to India’s interests and its national security”.

Other sources said a senior CPM leader was in touch with Mukherjee. “The impression is that the Bengal government is not keen to let Taslima return now. At least not until things cool off in Calcutta,” a source said.

The Centre seems to have decided against shifting Taslima from the Rajasthan guesthouse immediately as “frequent transfers” might reinforce an opinion that she is a security risk.

The Bengal CPM said it would take a decision on Taslima on November 29 at the state secretariat meeting.

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