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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Friday, 8 August 2008

Taslima Nasreen is back in India from a secret European location

This news has just come in.

The BBC reports that controversial Bangladeshi novelist and staunch atheist Taslima Nasreen has just returned to India from an undisclosed European location, to renew her visa which expires on Tuesday. Hopefully, it will be renewed. The author whose life is still in danger from several death threats after speaking out against what she had supposed to be the rigidity of the Muslim faith, had major problems with her visa the last time. The Indian Government had allowed her to renew it providing she left the country to prevent possible riots. She is not allowed to return to Calcultta where her possessions are stored in her home, and will have to settle for renewing her visa in Delhi.


Early this year and sometime in March, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview Nasreen where she hid in her apartment in India, before leaving for Europe. The Indian Government was afraid at the time that she would be killed if she left her home and even resorted to bringing her provisions and food. Nasreen answered a few important questions and the little dialogue below had to be vetoed by her agent in the Americas before I was allowed to place it on my blog. Here it is:

by Suzan Abrams in Dublin

On January 13, I featured a post on Taslima Nasrin, the famed and exiled Bangladeshi writer, who had just won France's prestigious Simon de Beauvoir award. Already having championed several international awards, Nasrin had lived and worked in Europe for several years. An increasing amount of death threats did not help the situation but Nasrin bravely attempted another return to India.

However, more political troubles accompanied the steely writer for what are supposed to be her anti-Islamic remarks, in her literary works. Her beliefs are suspected to have stayed unforgiving to many in orthodox Asian communities, although such an intense hysteria could have been greatly exaggerated, especially when held in consideration with the passing of time. Still, the Indian Government's retaliation of "a fear of riots" has forced the radical author to stay in strict hiding until this present day.

You can catch the older link HERE.

A day ago the Indian government extended Nasrin's visa for an unspecified period of time with the condition that she was not allowed to leave her apartment in the event of explosive riots. If she chooses not to adhere to the condition, she must leave the country.

I contacted Taslima Nasrin immediately. She replied less then 10 hours ago (UK time 6am), that her "mental state is not very well now."

Here she answers the questions:

Thank you, Nasrin.

a) Your visa has been extended. What is your first response?

Nasrin says: I am happy. I am grateful to the Indian government for allowing me to stay on. I have already lived in India for almost four years now. Kolkata has become my second home. The same language, the same culture matters to me. After all, I am an author. Literature can only bloom in a cultural context. That is why I believe my staying on, in India, is important....

b) Some amount of protest has been registered after your visa has been extended. Idris Ali, the man who organized the Kolkata protests, has spoken out. He says he is disappointed.

Nasrin says: There is a tiny minority in this country that objects to my presence. I don't think they need to be taken seriously. I have been moved by the spirit of Indian democracy, the way people have come out to support me; the way intellectuals have expressed their solidarity. Just the other day, there has been intellectual support expressed in my favour by important thinkers. I want to thank Arundhati Roy, Habib Tanveer, Girish Karnad, Mahasweta Devi, Sumit Sarkar, and everybody else for coming out in my support. I want to thank the late Safdar Hashmi's organization, the Sahmat ..

c) But this visa does not give you enough liberty. You have to stay in the safehouse at an undisclosed officials where nobody but the government officials can meet you? Don't you feel suffocated....

Nasrin says: Well, I will feel suffocated until the time I am allowed to go back to Kolkata. I don't have much of a life now. I am naturally a person who loves to mix with people. I love to meet fellow authors, literary people. I am not allowed to do that. How can an author's mind grow and flourish when the author is being confined.
Kolkata is my home. Whatever it is in Delhi, Delhi is not home. I do get food and necessities, but I don't have the freedom even to step out of where I am being confined. I have no freedom to receive friends. Life in Kolkata is dynamic, flowing, friendly. Life in Delhi is whatever it might be if you are free, but life cooped up in a room anywhere on Earth is stagnant, inhuman for a creative writer.

d) I am told that you the president of the European Union has sent you mail.

Nasrin says: Yes the president of European Parliament, Mr Hans Gert –Pottering, has written a very nice letter to me, sympathising with my cause, understanding my problems.

e) What has the government really told you; how long will your freedom be curtailed?

Nasrin says: I was told by the govt officials that if I go out, 10 people will be killed. Even though I don’t think 10 people will be killed because of me, I have no other option but to remain in the condition they have demanded that I live.
I have been told that this will be my future, but they have not given me any time frame.

f) Are you able to write?

Nasrin says: I am trying to write, but it is not easy to concentrate. Writing is somehow keeping me alive - that's the only way to stay sane under these trying conditions.

Picture courtesy of SinDioses


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