Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
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.
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.
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.
Posted by Agnivo Niyogi
[I had a blog Aagan Says previously. But in a moment of emotional foolery i deleted the blog without taking backup, and posts between May-August were lost. I am going to REPOST those again. Today i post an article Taslima Nasreen had written about in response to a communally charged article by Janata party president Subramanian Swamy].
This is a guest post by Taslima Nasreen, internally acclaimed writer and human rights activist and feminist. She wrote this in response to an article by Subramanian Swamy in DNA which vilified Muslims and proposed utopian ideas for combating terrorism which were no less than communal.
Dear Subramanian Swamy,
My ancestors were Hindus. Because I defended minority Hindus in Bangladesh, I received numerous death threats and fatwas issued by Islamic fundamentalists. The government filed cases against me and forced me to leave the country. It has been 17 years since I left and I have not been allowed to enter my country. I am sure you haven’t risked your life the way I have risked my life for Hindus. But I did nothing as a descendant of Hindus. I did everything for humanity. I believe Hindus are human beings and they have all the rights to live with dignity and honour and must not be treated as second class citizen in Muslim majority Bangladesh.I fearlessly protest against Islamic fundamentalism, Islamic terrorism and I audaciously criticize Islamic doctrines. I accuse governments of practicing vote bank politics,building mosques,madrassas and keeping people in ignorance and darkness. I have become a victim of physical attacks, book banning, censorship and you may know that I was thrown out of Kolkata, my second home, in 2007 and could not return to the city since then.I was shivering with fear while reading your article published in DNA, exactly the same fear I have when I read Muslim fanatics’ manifesto about converting the world into Darul Islam. You simply want semitization of Hinduism and you don’t want to look different from Muslim terrorists.
Your idea to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra with legalized caste system is just insane.Your thoughts about occupying others’ land and starting a war are irrational and vicious. Islamic fundamentalists are small groups that terrorize society now and then using small bombs. Nothing happened like 9/11. Those terrorists have no capacity to do much bigger atrocities. The reality of Jews and Hindus are not the same. You can’t rewind time and rewrite or erase history. Your time-travel-dreams, I’m sure, will never come true. Before Hinduism was practiced in India, indigenous people worshiped some other gods, would you now start worshiping those gods? If you want to go back to the past, why don’t you to go back to Ethiopian Jungle from where our Homosapien ancestors came! And if you push yourself more and more backwards, you might end up in swimming in the water. You will be nothing but fish. As a modern and educated man, you should believe in evolution.
I am extremely disappointed to see that you are trying to spread racism, hatred, dangerous sectarianism, and narrow nasty nationalism.Not all Muslims are fanatics. If all Indian Muslims were fanatics or terrorists, India would have been burned to the ground decades ago. If all Hindus were fanatics, all Indian Muslims would have been burned to death.
When I lived in Kolkata, I created an organization called ‘Humanist organization free from religion’. The criteria to be a member of that organization was, true secular non-religious people born in Muslim family. There were hundreds of members who demanded uniform civil code,women’s equal rights,banning of Quranic schools and burqa system.
What India needs the most is a true secular state. India needs to have one law for all or uniform civil code, and a strict separation of state and religion. India needs more science schools instead of religious schools, more scientific academies instead of temples and mosques.Only then India will slowly become a modern state, free from religious bigotry, obscurantism and fanaticism.
After 60+ years of the partition, India still witnesses conflict. Yes, there is a conflict, but the conflict is not between two religions, Hinduism and Islam or between Hindus and Muslims.The conflict is between secularism and fundamentalism, between rational logical mind and irrational blind faith, between modernism and anti-modernism, between humanism and barbarism, between innovation and tradition, between the future and the past, between people who strive to go forward, and who strive to go backward, between people who value freedom and who do not.
Give peace a chance. Any bigoted faithhead fool can easily be an intolerant fanatic, you need to get real good education to be an enlightened, tolerant, rational,peace loving person, and a believer of human rights,women’s rights, secular humanism and democracy.
India’s biggest problem is not Islamic terrorism, India’s biggest problems are poverty, corruption,women’s oppression,superstitions, casteism etc.
We’re living in the 21st century, isn’t it? An eye for an eye is never a solution to any problem.
I hope you will understand.