Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Persecution of Taslima Nasreen I
French award for Taslima:
But India won't allow ceremony
Dissident Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, winner of this year's Simone de Beauvoir Feminist Award, may not be fortunate enough to personally receive it from French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his visit to Delhi later this week because the Government of India is not too keen about it.
On January 9, the French Government announced that Nasreen is this year's recipient of the coveted award named after the famous feminist writer, close friend of Jean Paul Sartre and author of the celebrated treatise, The Second Sex. The award is conferred on notable women writers.
Nasreen, who has been chosen for the award in Simone de Beauvoir's centenary year, could not travel to Paris to receive it as she remains in the protective custody of security and intelligence agencies in a safe house somewhere in the National Capital Region. There was some apprehension that if she had left Delhi for Paris, she might not have been allowed to return to India although she has a valid visa which expires on February 17.
The French authorities, therefore, decided that President Nicolas Sarkozy would hand over the award to Nasreen during his visit to Delhi later this week. This was conveyed to the Government of India, only to elicit a guarded response. It is believed that South Block has conveyed to the French Government that while India has nothing against Nasreen being accorded the honour, it would not be possible to let her attend a formal ceremony for "security reasons".
Nasreen, who has lived in Paris and whose 2002 novel, Forashi Premik (French Lover), is based on a young immigrant Bengali woman breaking free of a loveless marriage, told The Pioneer she was overwhelmed when she heard that the Simone de Beauvoir Award committee had selected her as this year's recipient. "I could not go to Paris to receive the award, so I was hoping to receive it here, but now there seems to be some doubt about that," she said.
"An official of the French Government called me on Monday night and said the French President would like to personally hand over the award to me during his visit to Delhi. I was delighted and felt deeply honoured," she told this newspaper during a telephone conversation on Tuesday. "But now there seems to be some problem."
While the Government of India is yet to communicate anything formally to Nasreen, the Government of India is believed to be unwilling to agree to a formal ceremony due to "security reasons". Nasreen, of course, insists that in "secular, democratic India I have nothing to fear" and that any suggestion of Muslim fundamentalists taking to the streets is "grossly exaggerated".
Nasreen, who was living in Kolkata for the past couple of years, was forced to leave the city by the CPI(M)-led Left Front Government after Muslim mobs instigated and led by a Congress leader, Idris Ali, ran riot on November 21 last year to protest against her book, Dwikhondito, which had been cleared for publication by the Calcutta High Court in 2004.
After spending a night in Jaipur, Nasreen was shifted to Delhi. Since November 23, she has been under virtual house arrest and is neither allowed to step out of the 'safe house' nor receive friends and visitors there by security and intelligence agencies.