Taslima Nasreen was moved out of Jaipur to an undisclosed location on Friday, a day after the controversial Bangladeshi author was hounded out of Kolkata by Muslim groups objecting to her continued stay in that city.
Late in the night, sources said Taslima was in Delhi as a guest of the Rajasthan government. But her whereabouts could not be confirmed.
“I can’t say where I am. But I have left my heart behind in Kolkata,” an upset Taslima told HT over the phone just hours after officials and security men whisked her away from her Jaipur hotel room — and from media glare — in a dramatic manner.
Early morning, the writer dressed in black walked into a waiting Ambassador as word spread that she would be taken to Delhi. The car and two escort vehicles proceeded towards the airport followed by media vehicles some distance away. But instead of going to the airport, her car took a sudden turn towards the industrial area and took the national highway. Near Shahpura, 70 km from Jaipur, the media lost her. Sources in the government said Taslima’s departure was intended to divert media attention.
“It is scary that living in a democratic country, I am unable to disclose my whereabouts to my friends,” Taslima said even as the Centre chalked out plans for her security.
An urgently convened meeting of the Union Cabinet Committee on Security in Delhi decided that all steps would be taken to protect her.
Attended by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister AK Antony and Home Minister Shivraj Patil, the meeting decided that Taslima’s stay in India should be as secure as possible, sources said.
As her movement out of Kolkata raised an outcry, the Centre promptly dismissed reports that it was behind the move to shift her out. “No instruction was given to the West Bengal government to move out Taslima Nasreen,” a Union Home Ministry spokesperson said, adding that she had a valid Indian visa till February 17, 2008. The spokesperson said the author would get “appropriate security wherever she is”.
West Bengal Home Secretary PR Roy denied that the state government had directed her to move out, and said: “I came to know about it from the television last evening.” When told that Taslima wanted to return to Kolkata, Roy said, “She’s a free person. She can come. She can go.”
Amid all the drama, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje spoke to the Union Home Minister to complain that Kolkata police brought her to Jaipur without prior intimation. Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said the West Bengal government sent Taslima to the state without informing the state authorities. “Since they have been keeping her, it is their responsibility to look after her.”
In a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Kataria said Taslima would be guest of the Rajasthan government till the Centre took a final stand on this issue. “At this stage, the government of Rajasthan is left with no alternative except to have Ms Nasreen as a guest,” he wrote, seeking “guidance and intervention in the matter”.
BJP’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the party still stood by its stand that Taslima should be given a permanent visa and Delhi must coordinate her safety and movement. “We have no problem with Taslima staying in a BJP-ruled state or any other state but the Centre must coordinate,” she said.
In Delhi, All India Milli Council general secretary Mansoor Mohammed Alam said all Muslim organisations would vehemently protest the stay of the controversial writer in the Capital. “We oppose her stay here as she had hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in the country,” Alam said. Taslima was blacklisted by fundamentalists in her country in 1994 after her book Lajja hit the stands.