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Writer fighter: Taslima Nasreen

Taslima has always stood her ground. When her country’s government confiscated her passport and asked her to quit writing or lose her job as a doctor, she quit her job, writes Arindam Sarkar.

kolkata Updated: Nov 23, 2007 23:38 IST
Arindam Sarkar
Arindam Sarkar
Hindustan Times

Glued to the television at her Rawdon Street apartment with Meenu (her cat) on her lap, exiled Bangladeshi litterateur Taslima Nasreen couldn’t believe what she was seeing on the screen. On Wednesday afternoon, the city was burning and Taslima was again in the eye of the storm.

With four months to go before the expiry of her six-month residential permit, Muslim fundamentalists were up in arms to see her back.

A shaken Taslima told her maids not to allow Meenu to step out of the flat and advised them to stay back. By evening, when the army was on the streets, Taslima was on her mobile phone calling up friends desperately to find out what instigated the violence and why was it timed at this point.

Speaking to HT, the author said, “Is this a conspiracy? Who was behind it? I am told that the police knew that the fundamentalists were working underground to drive me out of this city. Why was no action taken against them?”

This year has been bad for Taslima. She faced the ire of the city’s Muslim fundamentalists in June when at a seminar at the Bangla Academy, she allegedly made defamatory statements against the Prophet. Again in August, Taslima was attacked at the Hyderabad Press Club by the activists of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

A jaded Taslima said: “I am scared of these Muslim fundamentalists.”

On Thursday, apprehending a possible attack on her, a disturbed Taslima was forced by her friends to leave town. The police were asked to help her catch the flight to Jaipur. Clad in a


, Taslima left the city that she claims to love the most after Dhaka. And yet again, the embattled writer is on the run again.

Daughter of a Bangladeshi doctor and a physician herself, things began to hot up for Taslima in Bangladesh in 1990, when Muslim fundamentalists launched a scathing attack against her writings, on the streets of Dhaka and issued fatwas.

Soon the Bangladeshi government confiscated her passport and asked her to quit writing if she wanted to retain her job as a doctor in the Dacca Medical College and Hospital.

Taslima left her job. By this time, she had become a best-selling author both in Bangladesh and West Bengal. And Lajja (Shame) became a bestseller. Predictably, the Bangladesh government banned the novel.

Lajja talks about atrocities against the Hindu minorities by the Muslim fundamentalists. This was unpalatable to the Muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh. They demanded Taslima’s execution.

The government issued a non-bailable warrant against her and Taslima went into hiding. Fundamentalists issued two more fatwas and demanded Taslima’s head.

In 1994, Taslima finally left her country. During her stay in Europe and the US, Taslima wrote 28 books of poetry, essays, novels and short stories in Bengali. Her poems and novels were translated into more than 25 different foreign languages.

“During this time, I wrote Aamar Meye Bela, Utol Hawa and Sei Sob Ondhokar . Then came Ko and Dwikhondito. Defamation suits were filed against me for Dwikhondito and both the Bangladesh and West Bengal governments banned the book, as my book hurt the religious sentiments of the people,” said Taslima.

Back in Kolkata, Taslima wrote the fifth part of her autobiographical series, Aami Bhalo Nei, Tumi Bhalo Theko Priyo Desh.

The book covers Taslima’s experiences in Europe between 1994 and 1996. Taslima plans to write two more autobiographical series that would talk about her life after 1997.

The second part of her magnum opus Lajja titled Sharom and an anthology of essays on women’s rights and humanism titled Narir kono Desh Nei have been released in the West Bengal capital.

It has been a long, long journey. And 13 years into her exile, Taslima may not have lost her fire, but she is tired of being hounded.

“I have been globetrotting since 1994. I am really tired. I need a home. In this vast country, can’t I expect the democracy-loving people to save me from the hands of the Muslim fundamentalists,” asked a shattered Taslima.

First Published: Nov 23, 2007 22:56 IST