Saturday, December 22, 2007

Taslima Nasreen: Where does she go from here ?

Where does she go from here? I refer not merely to her ‘homeless’ status, but also her literary works in progress, if any. I am not familiar with her writings; Taslima Nasreen is less widely read than written about, not always for the right reason. Leading a life, unsettled and under constant threat of violence takes courage. But can Taslima, or anyone else in her nomadic situation get any writing done at all?

I wonder if she ever regrets having written something, so long back, that was to pose a life-long challenge to her life; to brand her infidel and be banished from Bangladesh. Not that an apology would now alter her life. I am all for freedom of expression. But those who assert their right to write their personal truth on socially sensitive issues ought to realize that such freedom comes with social constraints, and consequences.

Arguably, the city she came to adopt as ‘home’, and the local authorities there have an obligation to protect Taslima. This hasn’t happened, which is why she is ‘on the run’, for her safety, from her beloved Kolkata. Her current situation is fluid, and sticky. And Taslima hasn’t helped matters by talking to the media from her ‘undisclosed location’.

She told The Hindu that the external affairs ministry has conveyed that she wouldn’t be able to return to Kolkata anytime soon; and wherever else she chose to stay in India, she would have to lead a life in captivity.

‘Captivity’ isn’t quite the word I would use to describe ‘security cover’ extended to the high profile writer. “Why do I have to lead a life in captivity?”, Taslima is quoted in her telephonic interview with The Hindu’s Marcus Dam, “all I’m asking for is to be able to lead a normal life”.

Isn’t she asking for a bit too much? Celebrities don’t have the luxury of ‘normal life’, as you and I understand it. Snag is Kolkata isn't the only city that isn’t happy to welcome her back. Authorities in Hyderabad and Jaipur have demonstrated their disinclination. However, Mr Narendra Modi of Gujarat, during his poll campaign, is reported to have invited her to his state. I don’t know if Taslima reacted to Mr Modi’s offer, which could well be public posturing.

Meanwhile, our media tracks Taslima wherever she goes, even in an ‘undisclosed location’. What’s more, she appears more than willing to oblige them, with quotable story. This, at a time when those concerned with her security would want to keep her location a secret. Wouldn’t it help if Taslima were to maintain a low profile, by staying off headlines, till such time the authorities finalize arrangements to settle her somewhere safe and secure?

The Bangladesh writer has, on more then one occasion, expressed her gratitude to the media. Their presence have been a life-saver, at times, for her, when Taslima came under attack from a bunch of intruders at the Hyderabad Press Club not long ago. But media exposure could also work against her; and it doesn’t always win her public sympathy. As she herself put it, “I have become, it appears, an embarrassment to all…”. And media interviews at this time don’t help matters, do they.

Cross-posted in Desicritics


ER Ramachandran said...

....Freedom comes with constraints and consequences....

So true.Even 'Bare foot' M.F. Hussein should have realised by now and regretting what he did.It 's alright to say 'freedom of expresion' and 'art has no barrier' and all that. But any such indescriminate writing or work should not impinge on the sensibilities of a majority who cherish their beliefs and values. Same thing applies to Mu.karunanidhi who is notorious in issuing such statements be it Rama setu and grieving with Rajiv killers.

Hope they have learnt their lessons and others too, who are tempted to do likewise.


Anonymous said...

“Why do I have to lead a life in captivity?”, Taslima is quoted in her telephonic interview with The Hindu’s Marcus Dam, “all I’m asking for is to be able to lead a normal life”.

This writer should sit for a few minutes and reflect on her name which indicates what the religion she was born into and whose practioners she upset through her scribbles using 'freedom of expression'. She should also in those minutes contrast her situation with Thiru Karunanidhi who also talks and scribbles hurting practioners of the relgion he was born into using 'freedom of epression' with entirely different consequences. At the end of these minutes she would know the answer to her question.

Unknown said...

This is a good assessment of the Taslima tangle.

Unknown said...

Like millions of other Indians, I haven't read a word of what Tasleema has written. By some accounts, it is poor literature. But it is evidently incendiary, otherwise why would the fundamentalists want to kill her? So her predicament is mostly her own doing. Or so most of us believe.

But I don't think it takes much to ignite a fundamentalist's ire these days, Muslim or otherwise. A British teacher in Sudan faces 40 lashes because she let her students name a teddy bear "Muhammad". The whole Muslim world wants to see the colors of that Danish cartoonist's insides, because he drew some cartoons. Our own bigots want to flay M.F.Hussain alive because he forgot to paint clothes on to religious figures.

I think the fact is that for some 5000 years of recorded history, not a single prophet, messiah or god has been able to offer a single shred of solid evidence. Not coincidentally, all these guys force their followers to be faithful, offering all kinds of rewards (virgins, heaven) for doing so and all kinds of punishments (hell, inferno) for losing faith. But no proof. Hell, if there was proof, no one would need faith. You don't need to be faithful to believe the earth is round. Or that the plague is caused by bacteria. Or that the earth goes around the sun and not vice versa.

Thus I believe that no one has any right to be offended on religious grounds. And any way, if a religion was right about what it believed, its offenders should be going straight to hell anyway.