Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why do they hate her so?
Saswat Panigrahi, Pioneer

Driven out of West Bengal after Left Front chairman Biman Bose indirectly declared her as persona non grata -- "if Ms Taslima Nasreen's stay disturbs the atmosphere of peace in the State, she must leave," Mr Bose had said -- the dissident Bangladeshi writer has already spent three weeks in virtual house arrest in an undisclosed place in Delhi.

It's not only the Left Front Government of West Bengal that bowed before violent Islamic fundamentalists on the rampage in Kolkata, the UPA Government hasn't shown any spine to stand beside the beleaguered woman either -- both eyeing the Muslim vote-bank. A stoic Congress-led Government at the Centre has said it is ready to provide shelter to Ms Nasreen, but expects the writer to refrain from activities and expressions that may "hurt the sentiments of the people".

"Those given shelter in India have always undertaken to eschew political activities in India or any actions which may harm India's relations with friendly countries. It is also expected that the guests will refrain from activities and expressions that may hurt the sentiments of our people." This statement read in Parliament by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in an oblique reference to Ms Nasreen, smacks of appeasement of the fundamentalist forces.

If Ms Nasreen's prospect of returning to her home country Bangladesh is remote, her chances of returning to Kolkata in the milieu of her linguistic community of Bengalis are dim. This, despite her decision to delete three 'objectionable' pages from her autobiography Dwikhandita. For the first time in the country, a famous woman writer has been disgraced due to vote-bank politics. In doing so, pseudo-secularist Union and State Governments have suavely brushed aside the Indian philosophy of "atithi dewo bhawa" (a guest is godly). This is a dishonour to the Indian culture as well.

A woman is being disrespected by two 'secular' fundamentalist Governments that have, on another front, failed to deport Bangladeshi infiltrators who pose a serious threat to national security. Come election, these political parties shamelessly compete with each other for a bigger share of the illegal immigrants' vote-bank pie.

A defenceless woman, who showed rare courage to speak out against growing Islamic fundamentalism, has come in the way of the UPA and Left Front Government's greed for votes.



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