Left out, Taslima flies in - Centre to seek response of 'reluctant' Bengal govt

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By BHAVNA VIJ-AURORA in Delhi
  • Published 9.08.08
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New Delhi, Aug. 8: Taslima Nasreen is back in India, her return facilitated by a valid visa and the changed political equations in Delhi.

The Bangladeshi writer, who was hounded out of Calcutta after protests by a section of the minority community, has returned to “virtual house arrest” on the outskirts of Delhi less than 10 days before her Indian visa was to expire.

Her arrival raises a piquant situation for the Bengal government. If she insists on reaching Calcutta — sources say she has already told her minders that she wants to visit the city — the Centre is no longer under any compulsion, unlike last time when the CPM called the shots in Delhi, to come to the Left Front government’s rescue and keep her in a safe house forever.

“The home ministry is going to write to the Bengal government for a formal response,” an official said in Delhi.

Contacted, Bengal chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb said tonight that he had heard about Taslima Nasreen’s arrival in Delhi. “We have not received any request from her to return to the city or any intimation from the Centre. A decision will be taken at the highest level when we hear either from the author or from the Centre,” Deb said.

Some minority groups in Calcutta have already sought her “immediate deportation”.

For the time being, Taslima is being kept at the same safe house she once called a “chamber of death” because she was not allowed to meet anyone there.

A team of security and intelligence officials awaited her as she landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport from Sweden this morning. She was driven to the NSG-maintained Manesar safe house where she had spent more than four months before leaving the country.

The Centre could not have refused entry to Taslima as she had a valid visa. If she had reached India after the expiry of the visa, she would have had to be deported.

Sources said the Bangladeshi author had been in touch with government officials for the past one month, saying she wanted to return before her visa expired on August 17.

“Taslima got in touch with the government in July, saying that she wished to return. The ministries of external affairs and home affairs said they did not have a problem. They even said she could return to Calcutta but that might create problems with the Bengal government,” an official said.

The central government requested Taslima not to return in July since it was focused on the trust vote in Parliament. “Now that the trust vote is over and the Left has joined the Opposition bandwagon, the Congress-led UPA government found no reason to hold back Taslima, especially since she is holding a valid visa,” an official said.

“She still wants to go to Calcutta. Although the Centre is yet to write formally to the Bengal government on the issue, the state has already indicated that she is not welcome,” another official said.

Taslima has also asked for a permanent resident permit. The government will have to decide whether to grant one before the visa expires.

The sources said the government had not decided yet whether to extend her visa beyond August 17.

Other sources said the Centre was trying to persuade Taslima to stay somewhere outside Calcutta, probably in Delhi itself. If no compromise could be worked out, she might be sent back to Sweden, they added.

With inputs from our Calcutta bureau