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Mainstream, Vol. XLVI, No 18

In response to the statement on Taslima Nasreen’s departure from India

Tuesday 22 April 2008, by Syed Shahabuddin

COMMUNICATION

The joint statement of Indian liberal establishment in your journal (Mainstream, April 5, 2008) follows the pattern of editorials in the national media. It not only misrepresents the facts of the case but defines democracy in a manner which violates the cultural ethos of our country as well as the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the law of the land.

To begin with, Taslima Nasreen was not a political refugee in any sense of the term. Nor was she a stateless person seeking shelter. Neither is she a crusader for freedom. Otherwise, she should have stayed in her native land and faced her situation valiantly.

She did not come to India as a guest of the Government. To the best of our knowledge, she was not invited here by any cultural or academic organisation.

Secondly, she entered India on a regular visa. The holder is expected to respect the law of the land and not offend the religious susceptibilities of any section of the people or to undermine public order. But, definitely, she engaged in public activities and made statements which hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community and provoked their protest and thus created disorder. In the Indian context, a secular state must respect and protect all religions and defend their dignity against any vilification.

Thirdly, freedom of expression and of right to move freely under the Indian Constitution do not apply to foreign nationals visiting India and in any case fundamental rights are not absolute but subject to prescribed conditions.

Taslima Nasreen left India because she felt unhappy and uncomfortable. It was a voluntary choice and the Government did not stand in her way. None of her friends came forward to take her under their wings or persuade her to stay on or guarantee her security, even if the Government did not.

Under the current wave of Islamophobia in the West, being a Muslim by birth, bearing a Muslim name, and a writer of sorts she has marketable assets and she is likely to be more comfortable and feel at home in the West, where in any case she was living after leaving Bangladesh between 1994 and 2004. But she is threatening to return before her visa expires. We hope she does not.

Syed Shahabuddin
- (Editor, Muslim India)
- (Managing Trustee, MIECT)
- D 250 Abul Fazal Enclave,
- Jamia Nagar, New Delhi-110025
- e-mail : muslim@del3.vsnl.net.in

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