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‘India Today’ has no sympathy for the pain Taslima Nasreen has to suffer due to our flawed secularism: Ashok Chowgule

Many of the questions India Today asked of Taslimaji are really pathetic.  It clearly shows that the interviewer has no sympathy for the pain that she has to suffer due to the practice of secularism in India: Ashok Chowgule, vice-President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad



from        Ashok Chowgule <>

To               Sultan Shahin <>

date        16 January 2009 11:53

subject   Interview of Taslima Nasreen on India Today


Many of the questions asked of Taslimaji are really pathetic.  It clearly shows that the interviewer has no sympathy for the pain that she has to suffer due to the practice of secularism in India.


Let me list out these pathetic questions:

Q. Why should everybody be scared of publishing Taslima Nasreen?

Q. But is the government that powerful?

Q. Why didn't you get the support of the people? Are they impotent?

Q. Why don't you compromise with the CPM?

Q. Do you think the CPM exchanged you for votes? It was a deal?

Q. Is the prime minister serious about your return?

Q. Why don't you suck up to the CPIM if you are so desperate to live in Kolkata? Just some mere kowtowing?

Q. But what do these people have against you? I just do not understand...


It is also a reflection of the policy of the publication to allow this interview to be published.  What is all this about compromising with the CPM and sucking up to them?  Is this how a democracy would work?


Reminds me of an interview of Anu Aga by Shekar Gupta in the Indian Express of October 13.  She was asked: "But nobody from the government called and said don’t do this, you will have an Income-Tax raid." Clearly Shekarji thought that this is what the NDA government would do, because this is what was done by at least some of the previous governments.  And Anuji replied: "No, nothing."


And it is the CPM that is called democratic, secular, progressive, etc. While the exactly the opposite is said of the NDA.



Ashok Chowgule


The Interview in India Today:

Don't allow fanatics to rule: Taslima

Abhijit Dasgupta

Kolkata, January 2, 2009


Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen pines for Kolkata, her adopted home. Ever since she was forced to leave the city after protests by fundamentalists, she has lived a desolate life in New York. Nasreen tells India Today's Abhijit Dasgupta that she now finds it difficult to concentrate on writing and yearns to return to the city she needs so sorely for inspiration. Excerpts from the interview:


Q: Why are you perpetually harping on the fact that you are homeless in the world? You seem to be moving around the globe and there would have been many people back in our country who would revel in such a situation.

Taslima: It is not my choice to become a nomad. Neither is it my choice to be homeless. I badly need a home.


Q. We know that and we are in full sympathy and support. What is it that you are working on now?

Taslima: It is very difficult to concentrate on my writings...When I have no place to live, and I am not allowed to live where I like to live.


Q. We understand the pain. But tell me what are you writing now?

Taslima: I am finishing a novel.


Q. What is it on?

Taslima: It's about Kolkata...


Q. When is that coming out?

Taslima: I am not sure. It is hard to get publishers. I am blacklisted and banned in both the Bengals. No Bengali newspaper publishes my articles…hardly any publisher dare to publish my books.


When the fanatics are against me, I get support from people, but when governments are against me, I lose almost all the support. People are scared of supporting me. Publishers are afraid to publish my books. I saw exactly the same thing happen in Bangladesh.


Q. Why should everybody be scared of publishing Taslima Nasreen?

Taslima: They should not, but they are. They think publishing my books or supporting me would show that they are against the government.


Q. But is the government that powerful?

Taslima: Government is always powerful. If the government supported me, I could easily live in Kolkata, the city I love the most, the city I need to be inspired.


Q. Why didn't you get the support of the people? Are they impotent?

Taslima: I don’t think they are impotent. I don’t like this word. I think civil society should not shut its mouth. They should protest against any kind of injustice. Most of the people have become immune to injustice. That is very alarming.


Q. And what about Bengal...don’t you think the situation here is alarming for the arts?

Taslima: As long as you compromise, it is fine. But for a writer like me, who is fighting for equality and justice, who has dedicated her life for secularism and for women's rights is not fine.


Q. Why don’t you compromise with the CPM?

Taslima: I have done nothing against the CPM. Actually, I always supported them.


Q. Then why did they throw you out?

Taslima: I don’t think my ideology and theirs are different. I had been living in Kolkata for years and suddenly the fanatics came out on the streets and demanded my deportation. I thought the government would protect me.


Q. You share the same ideology and they give you the boot. "Sounds strange. I am okay with you but when it comes to vote banks, I will ignore you"—sort of strange policy.

Taslima: But unfortunately, I am getting punished for no fault of mine. I am being punished for the crimes Islamic fundamentalists committed against me. I do not believe in religion, superstition, or any kind of dogmas. I believe in humanism, I don’t believe in consumerism or capitalism. I believe in equality and justice for all people. Don't you think communists have the same beliefs?


Q. If they did, then why did they surrender?

Taslima: I was thrown out of my own country 14 years ago. West Bengal was my home.... and still it remains a shock that I have been thrown out and will never be allowed to go there. Only they know why they surrendered, if they surrendered. But I don’t think the fanatics will love them (the Communists) for too long.


No political party, for the sake of the country, should surrender to the fanatics. But unfortunately you do not see this picture. The great politicians never give up their ideology for votes.


Q. How would you describe the CPM in one word?

Taslima: I can’t describe the CPM in one word. The CPM banned my book. But still even in my worst nightmares, I can never think that CPM would throw me out of Kolkata, my only refuge.


Q. Do you think the CPM exchanged you for votes? It was a deal?

Taslima: I don’t think they have earned a single vote by throwing me out. I am not subject worth that much...99% Muslims do not know about me. It's just handful of fanatics who use me for their political gain.


The politicians in many countries bow their heads in front of fanatics. It happens in the subcontinent. Instead of taking action against the fanatics who issue fatwas against me, the governments of both Bengals took action against me.


In India, it is heartbreaking when you take a decision to make an exiled writer homeless once again. I hope they will allow me in Kolkata again. I am not powerful, I am not a politician. If they do not open the door, if they do not show their sympathy and support, how can I go back home?


Q. Have you written to Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi? He is a non-partisan man.

Taslima: He was very sympathetic to me. I always got his support.


Q. Any more support?

Taslima: Recently Manmohan Singh wrote a very good letter to someone. He wrote: '"India's glorious traditions of welcoming people irrespective of caste and creed, community and religion will continue, whatever be the odds. The atmosphere of hate being perpetuated by a small segment within the country will not prevent us from persisting with this tradition. We recognize Taslima Nasreen's right to remain in a country of her choice, viz., India in this case. She shall also have the option to choose whichever city or state she chooses".


Q. But why isn't the PM intervening? He compares you with The Dalai Lama in his letter and then forgets all about it. That is not the way a PM should react...

Taslima: Maybe somebody else is taking all the decisions regarding me. I do not have the foggiest idea as to how a government works.


Q. Did you contact anybody in the government?

Taslima: I wrote to the chief minister and foreign minister.


Q. Both are Bengalis...

Taslima: As a Bengali, I would like to trust Bengalis. If they are a bit considerate, I think the problems would be solved.


Q. Is the prime minister serious about your return?

Taslima: I believe one day I will be able to go back to Kolkata and live there. The door of Bangladesh is closed for me. I can't imagine the doors of India are permanently closed. I don’t know politics. I am against fundamentalism but then so are many others. But I am a soft target because I am just a mere writer, I am not influential, I do not have any organisation and above all, I am woman.


Q. But you are influential. You are Taslima Nasreen...

Taslima: I have some innocent readers who love me, that’s all. They are not united. You know something. You can fight fundamentalists but you can't cross swords with the government. And so I could not live where I want to live. Bengal is my place…Bengal is my home.


Q. What are you doing in New York?

Taslima: I am homeless everywhere...I move around and depend on friends to allow me to stay with them. I do not want to live in a Western country. It's an impossible situation. Emotionally and economically, it is very difficult.


Q. When did you last come to India?

Taslima: In August. I was only allowed to stay in Delhi. I could not go to my apartment in Kolkata. I wrote letters to both Buddhadeb babu and Pranab babu, I begged, pleaded and cried for getting the permission to be allowed to go back to Kolkata to survive as a writer. But it did not work. I did not get the permission. I had to quit my Kolkata home.


I have had to remove all my furniture from Kolkata and they are now lying in a sealed warehouse in Delhi. I asked Pranab babu whether I could visit Kolkata for just two days. It was refused.


Q. Why don't you suck up to the CPIM if you are so desperate to live in Kolkata? Just some mere kowtowing?

Taslima: The cruelty that I have seen...this is not the real India. I cannot act. I am not an actor, I am a writer. All I have is honesty. Why should I sacrifice that?


Q. What sort of cruelty have you seen?

Taslima: I sometimes wonder whether all that is happening around me is true...I am too stunned to react. .


Q. Any friends in the CPM?

Taslima: There were many people in CPM who support me...LF Chairman Biman Bose once told me so many stories of his adventures. He invited me to visit   his Vidyasagar Girls School.


Q. But what do these people have against you? I just do not understand...

Taslima: I don’t know. If they still believe in communism, I don’t think they have any reason to go against me. One day they will realise their folly. But that might happen after I die.


Q. Did you approach Sonia Gandhi?

Taslima: I did.


Q. Can I ask you a personal question?

Taslima: Shoot.


Q. Are you in love now? Any chances of marriage? Don't you want to become a mother?

Taslima: It would have been nice if I were in love. The answers of your three questions are, NO, NO and NO.


Q. Have you cut down on your smoking? The last time I met you years ago, you were smoking like a chimney...

Taslima: I stopped smoking in 2003.


Q. What about your cat? You miss her, don't you?

Taslima: When I had to leave Kolkata, my friends in Kolkata took care of her. I miss my Minu so much. But what can I do? There is nobody in India who could take care of her. She was sent to Dhaka with my brother. She is a great football player. She does not play anymore. She hardly eats. She is from Kolkata. She misses her wonderful life in Kolkata, she misses being with me.


Q. What are your plans?

Taslima: I have no future, everything is uncertain.


Q. If you were in Bangladesh now, who would you have voted for?

Taslima: I wouldn’t have voted for anyone.