Taslima, We Miss You

21 November 2007. It was about 1 PM in the afternoon. I was waiting to board a metro to College Street, at Maidan station when i got this frantic call from Bham. He advised me to go back home as riots had broken out in Park Circus and were spreading in areas of Central Calcutta. Reason – a few Mollahs had taken exception to sections of Taslima Nasreen’s latest book Dwikhandito and demanded it to be banned. Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque also wanted Taslima’s head as prized collection.

courtesy - anindianmuslim dot com

What followed is not unknown to us! The then Left Front government let mob rule the streets. Despite horrific scenes of loot, arson, rioting flashing across TV screens, government did not act. It deployed army late in the evening, when rioters were satiated with scaring little kids returning from school, terrorising housewives out to buy grocery, burning shops and vandalising public property. Curfew was imposed across several parts of the city of “Joy”, citizens had to carry “proof” of belonging to the city to venture out in their own home state! State government was busy consolidating minority vote bank!

Finally, our “cultural” Chief Minister deported Taslima Nasreen out of the city in the darkness of night! A city which boasted of spearheading freedom movement of India, a city where freedom of thought was always celebrated and worshiped, a city which gave birth to revolutionaries, set examples for the rest of the nation to follow, denied a writer her refuge. Taslima’s deportation blacklisted Calcutta as a city which breeds fundamentalism.

Courtesy Instablogimages dot com

Intellectuals, “buddhijibi” they call themselves, hit the streets in protest back then. Political parties scored brownie points by blaming the Left Front government and the Chief Minister (and rightly so) of intellectual bankruptcy. We hoped, a change in the corridors of power will enable Taslima’s return to her home, will resurrect Kolkata’s damaged soul. For four years the voices kept echoing the assertion of freedom of thought and expression. And finally “Poriborton” came in May 2011.

Riding on millions of hopes, Mamata Banerjee assumed the post of Chief Minister promising to do away with the vices that wrecked Bengal for 34 years. We hoped she will do away with the weak administration that bows before fundamentalists who quash the voice of freedom and liberalism in the name of religion. We expected, the intellectuals who had once rallied in favour of Taslima will raise the issue of her return. We waited for a woman CM give another woman the dignity of her home back. Thus far, we are disappointed!

The debate about Taslima is not about religion. It is about the freedom to express oneself fearlesly. It is about the freedom to be able to pen down our opinions without being instructed by any authority. We have every right to take offense to what Taslima writes. We can debate with her, we can take her to court. We can make her pay fine. But never can we demand her death just because she said what she feels. We can never ask her to leave the city that is her home because a few rogue elements held the city to ransom. The highest court of Justice held nothing wrong in Taslima’s book and lifted ban on it. How can an Imam of a mosque override that judgment?

India failed Maqbool Fida Hussain. Kolkata should not fail Taslima. The poet who advocated mind without fear, he who preached us to rise above our pety religious beliefs and strive for humanism, were all born in this great city! The prestige of Calcutta is at stake.

About Agnivo Niyogi

Typical Aantel, reader, blogger, news addict, opinionated. Digital media enthusiast. Didi fanboi. Joy Bangla!

Posted on November 21, 2011, in kolkata, Politics, Social Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I have read the post avidly but am sorry to say that I can’t agree with you on at least two counts. It is granted that the hounding of any heretic by religious fanatics cannot be supported at all, and the compunction of the political honchos — leaning left at that — to oust her in favour of the ubiquitous vote bank is rather more deplorable. Despite that I would say that the recent deification of Taslima by a section of Bongs is going far overboard than the length of the plank. As a connoisseur I would rate her literary prowess as average, nothing to write home about. And, judging by the nature of her tweets (@taslimanasreen), her needle is running in a circle on a defective long-playing record: she has nothing original to say, nor can she desist from repeating herself in a tiresome manner.
    Q1: Is she really a champion of women’s freedom; if so, why is her efforts limited to protests alone — protests that have a gradually diminishing audience?
    Q2: Is she active in spreading atheism as she claims to be?
    Q3: Is she doing anything worthwhile and constructive to achieve her two professed objectives?
    I would not attach too much importance to her under the circumstances. No rabble-rouser has ever reformed a society and its mores.


    • Does it matter whether she is a great writer? Does it matter whether i find her writing skills/tweets worth admiring? What matters is that my city, Calcutta, has always been a city of liberals. We cannot let fundamentalists hijack her.


      • Calcutta, contrary to your opinion, had always worn a facade of liberalism. It is the city of my birth but not my residence till 17 years ago. I had heard of the communal riots that had happened during my infancy, and had seen with my own eyes the Kalabagan basti set to flames in my college days, when the Hazratbal riot broke out (1963?) in its aftermath. Buses too were burning in the Park Circus area. Selim, a Kalabagan resident of approximately my age and a distant acquaintance of mine, ran up to me seeking shelter. I carried him on the “rod” of my bike to a budding communist’s home nearby who later made a place for himself in the CPI (M). He refused point blank. Selim was better off dead than living to be a Calcuttan.
        I began hating কলকাতার ভদ্রলোকs ever since. Given the circumstances can you blame me for that? I, myself a believer in Marx’s communism then, had changed my allegiance to the extreme left. There again, though I wasn’t directly affected, ভদ্রলোক sympathisers killed many of my mates. Now my faith in Marxism is limited to his theory of ‘alienation’ (you may Google the term to see what I mean for it is highly relevant in Taslima’s case).
        And age and exposure has given me a certain degree of insight. I never believed after that that Calcutta was liberal, culturally minded, egalitarian and fair, no matter what your generation might think. Calcutta is an overtly politicking (as opposed to politically conscious) city of brick and concrete; just that and no more.
        Another aspect of my experience is keeping first hand information on matters that interest me and not to go overboard. You may call me সন্দেহ-বাতিকগ্রস্ত বুড়ো. I have decided that cribbing and crying wouldn’t take her too far. So I am not prepared to ‘miss’ her as much as you seem to do, though I shall never forgive a ভদ্রলোক communist for ousting her when it was his duty to give her asylum. I must give you that much.


  2. I remember reading about it in the papers. I have always wondered why she was whisked out of Calcutta that night. Why couldn’t the government stand up for her. I have read her “Lajja” and was deeply moved by it. Nice post.



  3. বাংলাদেশে নব্য-রাজাকাররা দিদিকে থাকতে দেবে না বুঝি, কলকেত্তাইয়ারা কারে ডরান? মমদাদি ভুমিকা নিক তসলিমাদির কলকাতায় থাকার ব্যাপারে, এ নিয়ে কংগ্রেসকে হুমকিও দিতে পারেন।


  4. I completely agree with the writer of this article. And so, Thanks him a lot for writing such a rational topic. Bengal, (both Bangladesh & westbengal) is reputed to be a land of great literatures, greatest writers,poets -Rabindra-Nazrul-Sharat-Sukanta etc. we must not turn our faces from a 21cent.’s bold writer, having an international reputation : Taslima Nasreen. She is now a pride of Bengal, winning Ananda prize for two times ! We have lost Hussain , we must not lose our pride, once again. TMC should not make the same blunder what has been committed by the then ‘secular’ Left govt.(CPM,bengal). BRING BACK TASLIMA NASREEN TO HER OWN CULTURAL LAND, KOLKATA.. so that our next generation would not feel ashamed to read the HISTORY OF BENGAL where 21st November 2007 would be written as BLACK DAY for banishing a secular humanist writer from Bengal,the land of Tagore.


  5. No matter what, religio-political coercion should be arrested at its earliest… or else, it leads to where we are right now. 😐


  6. Taslima was bundled out on 22nd November 2007 from her Kolkata house by the State Govt. to Rajasthan and ultimately banished from India.

    We should not forget 21st November’07 – the day Kolkata succumbed to religious fundamentalists without any protest. We must not be silent after four years of that SHAME.

    This year also, Today, on 20th Nov’11, CAAMB & WAO has convened this meeting to continue the demand of Return of Taslima Nasreen in Kolkata. It is not the issue of Ms.Taslima Nasreen only, it is the matter of future of Secular ideas in West Bengal.
    The fate of Taslima Nasreen is now entwined with the future of West Bengal.


  7. I fully agree with the writer and as well feel guilty our inabilty or lack of will could not bring back Taslima to Bangladesh, her home.
    In changing political scinario in w.Bengal why not Taslima is allowed to back to Kolkata, where she loves to stay. That is question of mine.

    Mesbahuddin Ahmed


    • Hi, Thank u for your good and rational comments.

      Can I say u something? Why dont u send a letter to the CM of W. Bengal regarding her return to her own beloved city in Kolkata.

      Pls do the same.

      Thanks a lot once again.

      Swapna Ray


  8. I enjoyed the post till the end and then it all came down with mention of M F Hussain. He has very clearly insulted Gods/faith and deserve legal punishment.


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