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Taslima to get visa extension, but not freedom

India's external ministry has informed Taslima Nasreen that her visa will be extended but restrictions on her movements would continue says the Bangladeshi author who has been confined to a "safe house" in New Delhi.
By Sujoy Dhar | IANS, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2008 12:16 PM IST

India's external ministry has informed Taslima Nasreen that her visa will be extended but restrictions on her movements would continue says the Bangladeshi author who has been confined to a "safe house" in New Delhi.

Nasreen's visa - or residential permit - would be extended further when it expires on February 17, the writer said on Thursday.

"An external affairs ministry official told me that my permit would be extended. But I would not be allowed to move out of this place, meet friends, accept guests or return to Kolkata," Nasreen told IANS.

"I am myself surprised that I am living like this. My only hope is that one-day I will be able to return to Kolkata where I have set up a home over the years. But that is like hoping against hope going by the developments.

"I am pretty confused about the objective of the government. What purpose would it serve if I live like this?" she asked.

"I am not happy. I am living in stress. But I want to live in India and return to Kolkata. So I am bearing it all."

Nasreen, who virtually leads a prisoner's life after she was shunted out of Kolkata and then kept in a safe house in New Delhi, said her request for granting her some freedom in movement in India's capital was also shot down by the government.

A section of intellectuals continue to mobilise support for the writer whose fearless expressions on the state of women in Islam and the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh antagonised clerics and governments, forcing her to live in exile and under heavy security since the 1990s.

The international community and leading Indian intellectuals, including writers Arundhati Roy and Mahasweta Devi and theatre personalities Girish Karnad and Habib Tanvir, besides many others, are campaigning for Nasreen's freedom and Indian citizenship for her. But the government has been unmoved so far.

Nasreen, who was recently conferred the Prix Simone de Beauvoir by the French government for her writing, was not allowed to receive the award from French President Nicolas Sarkozy when he visited India last month.

The ruling Left Front in West Bengal, which is going all out to garner Muslim votes, shunted out Nasreen on November 21 last year after street riots in Kolkata over her extended stay in India.

Nasreen, who was already living confined in a Kolkata apartment, was taken first to Jaipur and then to New Delhi by the central government and has since been kept in confinement at a safe house.

In an earlier interview the 45-year-old Nasreen had said impassionedly: "I am only breathing. I don't think I am alive like you are. Can anybody live like this? It was beyond my imagination that in a secular democracy like India, such a thing could happen to a writer."

On November 30, 2007 Nasreen had agreed to expunge controversial portions from her biography "Dwikhandita" (Split in Two).

Though patriarch of the state's ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Jyoti Basu said on December 25 that Nasreen was welcome to return to Kolkata, the Left Front government has chosen to remain silent on her plight, keeping Muslim sentiments in mind.

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