Singed by the heat, Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen has decided to withdraw the two contentious pages from her book Dwikhandito, which had the minority Muslim community up in arms. She wants to return to Kolkata and has come off her high horse.
HOUNDED FROM one city to another, after violence erupted in Kolkata
over her presence in India, Taslima has been pining to return to Bengal. Having been cleared by the Centre to live in India
she decided to drop two controversial pages, critical of Islam in her book Dwikhandito,
which saw to her exile.
The authoress has contacted her publishers in Kolkata from New Delhi
and told them to drop the two pages, which had fanned resentment against her, and print a fresh edition. The compromise was egged on by her burning desire to come back to Kolkata and a veiled cautionary note from the External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee
not to hurt sentiments and exercise restraint.
Eight days after she was hounded out of Bengal and sought refuge in Rajasthan
from where she was literally thrown out to land in the Centre’s safe lap, she made the decision not to stick to her writer’s license and do away with the two pages, which got the book banned in Bangladesh with fundamentalists screaming for her head in a fatwa.
Having travelled abroad for several years as a litterateur in exile, including Switzerland, Taslima finally arrived in Kolkata and expressed a desire to stay in the city, once the capital of undivided Bengal. Both in terms of her fiery literature, language and culture, Kolkata would obviously have been her first choice. What she had not bargained for was the Muslim community in Bengal would not give her leeway to get away with what she had penned, which was thought to be per se criticism of Islam.
Interestingly, there was furore when she was granted a visa to stay in Bengal and there were demands that Dwikhandito be banned in West Bengal as well. The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee led Left Front government complied with the demand more than acutely aware that not doing so would create a huge dent in the minority vote bank. Not the one to give in Taslima moved court against the ban and had the order reverted. She insisted that her book be published in totality. The publishers obliged.
There was a longish period of lull when noises were being made by the All India Minority Forum among other Muslim organizations that her visa be revoked, and she be thrown out of the country. But the demand became vociferous and violent only recently when the Forum called a chukka jam
ostensibly on the Nandigram issue but actually with Taslima’s expulsion on the agenda. The mindless yet well planned violent took the shape of a riot on November 21 where the army was called in to quell unprecedented rampage on city streets. Taslima left the city, purportedly at the behest of a worried Kolkata police administration.
After talking to her publisher she told the media that she never had any intention of hurting the sentiments of any section of people or any community and she never would. Despite it, if what has hurt anyone or sections has been written in the two pages of Dwikhandito it is being withdrawn.
It maybe recalled that just a day before External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee while making a statement on the Taslima imbroglio in the Lok Sabha had, after stating India’s policy on granting asylum, subtly mentioned that Taslima on her side should avoid hurting sentiments of the people of this country and exercise restraint. Whether these words of Mukherjee or his advice to her on the sidelines have had an effect on her leading her to drop the two pages is a matter of conjecture.
But Mukherjee welcomed her sagacious decision, which has come albeit late.
Shibani Mukherjee of People’s Book Society, publishers of Dwikhandito
, said they would print a new edition soon without the two contentious pages. The publisher has run out of stocks of the earlier edition.
In the Muslim community in Bengal there has been mixed reactions to Taslima’s compromise. The Jamait Ulema-i-Hind, which was involved in the November 21 riotous scenes in Kolkata reacted with the general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani saying, “Islam says if anyone asks for forgiveness he or she must be forgiven. Since she has atoned, let her be forgiven and protests against Taslima should stop. Let her stay where she wants to stay.”
However Siddiqullah Choudhury, is colleague and convener of the Milli Ittehad Parishad, saw things a little differently. “Madani Saheb probably was not fully aware of the blasphemous contents of Taslima’s Bengali books. We should not judge her by today’s words but wait to see what she does,’’ he told the city media. Other Muslim organizations were stated to have asked what happens to the books already in circulation.
Taslima is now in a safe house in Delhi
arranged by the Centre.