She plans to write a book on the shabby treatment meted out to her under virtual ‘house arrest’ by the Indian government. She moaned, “The idea is to keep me away from media completely. They want people to forget me.”
SINCE MID 2006, Yamuna Pushta, the only night shelter run by the Delhi
civic body, MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) for homeless women near Vijay Ghat, has given way to a warehouse. According to the NGO Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan, no alternative arrangement was made for homeless women of the city who used it as a safe getaway from criminals during night time.
Director Paramjit Kaur says, “They huddle together on railway platforms, around temples and other places of worship. There are no lasting options for these women.” The NGO puts the number of such hapless women in Delhi alone at 10,000. Indu Prakash Singh of ActionAid confirms, “There are at least one lakh homeless people in the city but the night shelters available can accommodate only 7000 of them. Instead of creating permanent shelters, the government is going about demolishing shelter homes.”
Most of these destitutes have had the good fortune of being born in the country, with only a small portion being refugees call them unwanted ‘illegal immigrants’ as some super-patriotic outfits may choose to. The government of India
pleads helplessness to come to the rescue of these pathetically helpless ones, as Delhi’s biting cold makes their life a living hell.
People like Indu Prakash Singh and Paramjit Kaur are attempting to mitigate the suffering to the extent possible. They are angry at the state of affairs. But neither goes to the extent of condemning the general stolidity that prevails. They reckon it would be unfair to condemn the Indian society and the government as draconian for not being moved by the plight of these people; India happens to be a poor country and severe shortage of funds does pose a challenge.
Ironically, the government has enough funds to take care of a single woman, whom it nurtures carefully at an undisclosed safe haven and provides tight security to save her from mobsters of India. After all, the non-practising doctor happens to be an ‘intellectual’ and ‘honourable guest’ of the country, whom it will be shameful to turn away. A significant section of so-called intellectuals, writers, artistes and film and theatre are lobbying with the central government to extend her tourist visa upon its expiry in February. Simultaneously, a high-pressure campaign has been mounted on the Left Front government in West Bengal
to allow her to return to Kolkata. Making the issue more of a cruel joke, this New Year
Eve, the esteemed guest Taslima Nasreen indulged in what is best described as smiting the hand that feeds. A responsible media house IANS gleefully provided a platform to the lady to paint a gory picture about her plight in India.
Nasreen blasted the Indian government of being draconian. She furiously complained against the home ministry, “The rule they have made is strange. If I want to meet someone, neither can I visit the person’s house nor can he or she come over to my place. We would have to meet in a third place. Is it not draconian?” (The word incidentally is derived from Athenian lawmaker Draco, whose ruthless code of laws prescribed death for almost every offence.)
The central government spends bagfuls of public money everyday ever since the Bengali-writer put herself in trouble by participating in a protest rally in Kolkata, after she had whipped up religious hatred in the last couple of months. She had to be shifted out of Kolkata
to avoid large-scale violence. Notably, the socialite is not known to have done any such noble ‘social work’ in her own country.
Officials have advised Taslima to stay incognito as a security precaution, while permitting her to keep her laptop with an Internet connection for company. Apart from meeting the entire cost of board and lodge, she is provided with Bengali newspapers and magazines not available on the net. But the authoress is not satisfied with the arrangements. She lamented, “The home ministry decides everything about my visitors. UTV wanted to make a film on me but even they were not allowed to meet me.”
She disclosed to IANS of her plan to write a book on the shabby treatment meted out to her under virtual “house arrest” by the Indian government. She moaned, “The idea is to keep me away from media completely. They want people to forget me. They want to break me psychologically and they might succeed also since my confidence and mental strength are flagging already. I can’t live like this any more.” Saying that she doesn’t think she is alive anymore, Nasreen said, “I could come here only with my laptop. All my things are in Kolkata. I have left my life there.” She accused the Indians of a “conspiracy to murder my essence, my being, once so courageous, so brave, so dynamic, so playful” and topped it with a dramatic revelation, “Yes, I am a victim of this new crucifixion.”
Referring to her agreeing to delete offensive portions of her book to gain continued shelter in the country, she castigated her critics who pressurised her to do so: “This is my beloved India, where I have been living and writing on secular humanism. I want to be proud of that India. Does the nation not realize how immense the suffering must be for an individual to renounce her most deeply held beliefs? How humiliated, frightened, and insecure I must have been to allow my words to be censored. Only the expurgation of what they considered offensive satisfied them.”
The author apparently feels quite comfortable among the glitterati of Kolkata and believes that her ‘love’ for Kolkata and Bengali alone can make her a Rabindranath Tagore. The Bangladeshi writer continued her bitter tirade against India and West Bengal particularly, exclaiming, “Exiled from Bangladesh, I wandered around the world
for many years like a lost orphan. I am a Bengali within and without; I live, breathe, and dream in Bengali but, bizarrely, Bengal offers me no refuge. I had imagined Bengal would be different. I had thought the madness of her people was temporary. Is daring to utter the truth a terrible sin in this era?”
Former Bengal CM Jyoti Basu took the writer’s exhortation, “What have I to offer but love and compassion?” with a pinch of salt. He made it clear that with the question of Taslima staying in Kolkata is laced the question of her security. He said he had read her controversial novel Dwikhondito and the author’s comments on Islam cannot be expected to be taken lightly by the Muslim community. It had led to hurting the sentiments of the community and there has been violence in Kolkata and disturbances.
Taslima Nasreen threw a challenge at the government: “Under this circumstance, one cannot write. I have never ever lived in such misery. I am still in a state of shock. But, I want to see how long they can keep me like this. I have decided not to move out of India on my own.” It remains to be seen whether the government will have the guts to throw out such an adamant and possessive alien ‘guest’ who cannot technically claim any right to unabridged freedom while living here.
A significant section of intellectually minded Indians argue that the government should not buckle under pressure from the community deliberately offended by her scurrilous writing. Showing the door to the alien, by choosing not to extend the visa beyond February, they feel, will amount to appeasing the community of 15 million. In India, it will not be surprising if the feisty lady succeeds in her bamboozling tactics even as nobody cares for the 10,000-plus women shivering away just outside the seat of (non) power!