Hyderabad : If Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen escaped unhurt in Thursday’s attack by Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislators and cadre at the press club here, it was thanks to the journalists present.
The journalists acted as a shield to save Taslima, who was targeted by MIM activists at a book release function.
Only six media persons, mostly photographers, were covering the function as the organisers had invited only a handful of people to the function and Taslima’s visit was also kept under warps.
“The legislators and those accompanying them were ferocious. Had we not intervened things would have gone out of control,” Ravikanth Reddy, correspondent The Hindu, told newspersons.
Reddy, also secretary of the Hyderabad Press Club, was attending a meeting of the club office bearers in the boardroom at the time when three MIM legislators along with a few supporters barged into the hall where the function was on.
“For half hour no policeman reached the place and it was very difficult to control the legislators and their supporters who were throwing everything they could lay their hands on,” Reddy told IANS.
Some missiles hit the journalists and a couple of writers and other participants who stood between Taslima and the attackers.
Innaiah Narisetti of the Centre of Inquiry, the organisers of the book release function, bled after the attack along with K.V.S. Giri, a photographer of Deccan Chronicle.
“It is because of the presence of journalists that the legislators were a bit restrained but the mood of the others was nasty. One of them was shouting ‘Kill her’,” said Reddy, who had tried to pacify the legislators.
“I told them not to resort to such activities in the Press Club. We have let out the premises to an organisation and it was our responsibility to ensure that no harm was caused to the participants of the function,” he said.
“Though we managed to push the legislators and some others out of the meeting hall and escorted Taslima to the store room, another group of people arrived and they were more aggressive,” recalled H. Satish, photographer of The Hindu.
“Taslima requested us to call the police, and I told her that the police will be reaching in a few minutes,” he said.
“Anything could have happened in those 30 minutes. Fortunately the crowd was not armed. We don’t know but they could have even killed her,” he said.
“She came behind me to protect herself. She was really scared,” said K.V.S. Giri, who received minor injuries in the scuffle. “The attackers threw books kept on the dais at her and some hit me.”
Innaiah Narisetti, who saved Taslima from several missiles, termed the attack as “shameful”.
“It is shameful on the part of our legislators to resort to such use of abusive language and physically attack her. They took oath on the constitution of India but their behaviour was shocking,” said the intellectual.
“The attack on a woman writer is shocking but I think this will not deter her from writing for the rights of women,” said V. Komala, whose Telugu translations of Taslima’s book “Shodh” and Jung Chang’s bestseller “Wild Swans” were released by the novelist at the function.
Meanwhile, journalists took out a rally and demanded stern action against those involved in the attack on Taslima.
The three legislators and some others arrested by the police were granted bail late Thursday by a court.