Elections behind Taslima’s send-off

With panchayat polls due in a few months and Muslims certain to play a deciding role, the CPM can’t afford to take groups like the Jamait-e-Ulema Hind and Mili Ittehad Parishad lightly, reports Tanmay Chatterjee.

kolkata Updated: Nov 24, 2007 01:18 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times

As Taslima Nasreen shook the media off her trail on the Delhi-Jaipur highway and headed for an undisclosed location, CPI(M) mandarins at Alimuddin Street started distancing themselves from the controversial Bangladeshi writer and put the ball in the Centre’s court.

Left leaders said this is because the issue had more to do with politics than secular values.

With crucial panchayat elections due in a few months and the state’s 27 per cent Muslims certain to play a deciding role, the CPM is simply not in a position to take organisations like the Jamait-e-Ulema Hind and Mili Ittehad Parishad lightly.

The compulsions of the CPM, despite the discipline and secular credentials it has nurtured since its inception, have become evident after Muslim organisations reacted sharply to the violence in Nandigram and death of graphics designer Rizwanur Rahman. Younger generation Muslims in Kolkata and the districts have started questioning the Left leadership.

That Taslima had become a hot potato for the CPM became apparent on Wednesday when party state secretary Biman Bose said, “Since her presence has led to such a law and order problem, I think she should leave.” Bose later rectified his statement but the message was loud and clear — the party and government were drawing the same conclusion, although for different reasons.

“Her presence has definitely created a problem. The state government should send a report (on the law and order problem) to the Centre,” Assembly Speaker and local legislator Hasim Abdul Halim said on Thursday. It was no miracle that within 24 hours, Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy sent a report to Delhi in which he cited Wednesday’s violence and said Taslima’s presence posed a threat to citizens in the state.

Asked whether refusing asylum to the writer would question the CPM’s secular credentials, party central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty told HT: “I don’t take decisions for the government. But I can say we were secular, are secular and will be secular.”

MP Mohd Salim, whose constituency includes Wednesday’s trouble spots, refused to speak on Taslima. But party sources said most leaders feel the government cannot afford a repetition of Wednesday’s violence .

“Taslima’s presence has endangered not just common citizens. After Nandigram, Left parties run the risk of losing minority votes. Most Left Front leaders have realised that fundamentalist thoughts have made inroads into Muslim society, which had followed the Left’s secular ideology for decades,” said a senior Front leader. “But we cannot admit that in public,” he added.

Forward Bloc leader Hafiz Ali Sairani said: “Our secular image is intact. But people should remember that while expressing personal views, one can’t hurt the feelings of millions. Two pages from Taslima’s novel Dwikhondito led to this crisis. It’s sad the anger of the people was directed at the state and not the Centre, who issued the visa to Taslima.”

First Published: Nov 24, 2007 01:15 IST