Let Her Be

Published on The Times of India, by Editorial, Dec. 22, 2007.

In response to demands from a few religious fundamentalists, India’s democratic and secular government has placed a writer of international repute under virtual house arrest. Shorn of all cant, that is what the Centre’s treatment of Taslima Nasreen amounts to. She was forced into exile from her native Bangladesh because of the books she had written. Now it looks as if the UPA government is about to repeat the same gesture by placing intolerable restrictions on her stay in India.

She is living under guard in an undisclosed location. She will not be allowed to come out in public or meet people, including her friends. Without quite saying so, the government is clearly sending her a message that she isn’t welcome in India and ought to leave. Earlier, she was turfed out of West Bengal by the state government.

It’s not quite clear who’s ahead in the competition to pander to fundamentalist opinion, the Centre or the West Bengal government. Earlier, Left Front chairman Biman Bose had said that Taslima should leave Kolkata if her stay disturbed the peace, but had to retract the statement later. Now external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee echoes Bose by asking whether it is “desirable” to keep her in Kolkata if that “amounts to killing 10 people”. In other words, if somebody says or writes something and somebody else gets sufficiently provoked to kill 10 people, then it is not the killer’s but the writer’s fault … (full text).

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