January  2004 
Year 10    No.95

Cover Story

Flipside of intolerance

"Come what may, I will continue my fight for equality and justice without any compromise until my death. Come what may, I will never be silenced."

– Taslima Nasrin

Fast on the heels of the Left Front government of West Bengal’s ban on
Taslima Nasrin’s book, Dwikhandita in November 2003, a visit by the author to Kolkata raised a storm when irate Muslim conservative groups challenged her to a debate on her views about Islam (West Bengal Minority Council), while the fanatics announced prize money to anyone who ‘blackens her face with tar or ink!’ (SMN Rahman Barkati, the chief cleric of Kolkata’s main mosque, made this offer to a crowd of more than 10,000 attending Friday prayers in the city). Other Muslim groups even burnt her effigy while she was on a visit (January 18-23, 2004) that otherwise passed off uneventfully.

In a related development, the Imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid, Kolkata, issued a fatwa against the writer, sending ripples all over the city. Criticising the fatwa in a statement, the Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity demanded complete security for the writer in view of the threat. Other women’s and human rights organisations, too, protested the government’s ban as also the fatwas and edicts by fanatic organisations. "The state government was prompt in banning the book but when fundamentalists are threatening Taslima, it is silent. Her security should be tightened immediately and action should be taken against those who have issued the fatwa," demanded the spokesperson of Maitree, a women’s organisation. Incidentally, the edict against Taslima came days after fringe Muslim groups in Mumbai put up posters at several mosques, announcing a reward of Rs. 1,00,000 to anyone who blackened the face of British author Salman Rushdie while he was holidaying in the city. Many Muslims had accused the Booker Prize-winning author of blasphemy in his novel, The Satanic Verses. Rushdie’s visit too passed off without any untoward incident.

Taslima’s Banned Books
West Bengal has banned Taslima’s latest book, Dwikhandita (Split In Two). Taslima, who is against censorship anywhere, relied on new information technology to beat the ban. On December 16, 2003, the anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, she posted Dwikhandita as well as Amar Meyebela, also in Bengali, on her website (www.taslimanasrin.com) thus frustrating the designs of those trying to silence her voice. You can now read both these books on the website or download them.
The following books by Taslima Nasrin are banned in Bangladesh:
1. Lajja, 1993
2. Amar Meyebela, 1999 (also banned by the Bangladesh government and partly censored in India)
3. Utal Hawa, 2002
4. Ka, 2003 (temporarily banned by a court of Bangladesh)
5. Dwikhandita (also banned by the government of West Bengal; the ban decision was upheld by the high court of West Bengal)

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