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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 8

Taslima Is No Mean Prisoner

Saturday 9 February 2008, by V R Krishna Iyer

Venerable Prime Minister,

I was pained to read about Madam Taslima Nasrin suffering de facto solitary confinement and remaining in incommunicado in the proud Indian Republic which promises to every citizen free speech, freedom of association, free movement and, above all, the right to life with dignity and security. You are the statesman Prime Minister under this great Constitution.

Taslima is no mean prisoner but a fine person with independent judgment of a high order, even if her views may be opposed by fanatics who furiously resist free thought with obdurate obscurantism and fossil feudalism. I was moved to tears when I heard from Sri Sumit Chakravartty about her lurid lot for no culpable fault or violent deviance on her part.

This country of Gandhian greatness and Nehruvian liberalism has rarely been violative of humanism and compassion which are fundamental duties under the Constitution. To direct her to quit the country for no wrong committed is a slur and blasphemy because it is an infliction of indignity contrary to the hospitable traditions and gracious values which are part of the culture of Bharat Mahan.

I feel confident that you, as a noble leader, will not be browbeaten by the overbearing bigotry of a neighbouring country’s hostile minority. It is my conviction that the friendly relations India maintains with the rest of the world, on the basis of ‘Panchasheel’ and comity of nations, will be shaken if, for ulterior reasons, timid, and traumatic, State Power is used against a helpless woman happy in our comity.

The people of India generally will be warmly behind you if you allow this lady of integrity and amity to remain provided she does not create by her conduct a law and order problem. I plead with you to defend India’s high cultural stature without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. One wrong step may tarnish our glory even as one firm stand may win for us the world’s goodwill.

February 4, 2008 V.R. Krishna Iyer

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