24 Nov 2007, 0111 hrs IST,Avijit Ghosh,TNN
NEW DELHI: Hounded by fundamentalists in Kolkata, forced to leave Jaipur and now someplace somewhere, Taslima Nasreen must be feeling like a vagabond or worse. But on the brighter side, the 45-year-old exiled Bangladeshi writer has found support from several Muslim activists and intellectuals across the country.
Mumbai-based social activist Javed Anand says it is possible to understand why some Muslims are upset with Taslima’s writing and that they have every right to protest but in a civilized, democra-tic fashion. “But fundamentalists are using the threat of violence as a way of bulldozing the government. This is unacceptable. These protestors do not realize the extent of damage they end up doing to the community. Such conduct results in Muslims being seen as intolerant, violent fanatics,” says Anand, general secretary, Muslim for Secular Democracy.
The activist adds, “There’s every chance Taslima would be killed if she goes back to Bang-ladesh. India being a democracy, should give her a long-term visa, if she desires.” Taslima’s visa, renewed by the government in August, expires on February 17, 2008. She was living in Kolkata since 2004.
Hyderabad-based political scientist Javeed Alam says that the Muslim politics on Taslima Nasreen issue is no different from Praveen Togadia’s politics. “Both strengthen fascism,” says Alam, also a social activist. He wants the government to give Taslima an Indian citizenship. She had applied for it sometime back.
Pune-based Razia Patel of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan too believes that it is possible to disagree with what Taslima says. But she also points out that the writer has a right to express herself. “If the Indian government decided to give her visa, then it is the government’s duty to protect her,” she says. The view is affirmed by the Hyderabad based poet and activist Jamila Nishad. “Having granted her asylum, the government should ensure that she lives in peace wherever she wants in India,” says Nishad of Shaheen, a women’s organisation.
In August, Taslima was attacked by a group of Islamic activists while attending a literary function in Hyderabad. Alam points out that in her writings, Taslima has said that there is no scope of emancipation of Muslim women within the Shariat. “What the Muslims must understand is that there is a difference between criticism and insult,” he says.