Taslima agrees to remove controversial portions from book

By Sujoy Dhar, IANS

Kolkata : Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, now living at an undisclosed address in New Delhi under state protection, Friday said she is expunging the controversial portions from her biography that triggered riots in Kolkata earlier this month.

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Nasreen told IANS by telephone from New Delhi: “I have decided to withdraw the controversial portions of my biography that depicted the situation in Bangladesh in the 1980s when secularism was withdrawn from the constitution there.

“I hope there will be no controversy anymore. I hope I will be able to live peacefully now. I am sorry if I have hurt anyone’s sentiments. I want to return to Kolkata soon.”

After unprecedented violence in Kolkata by a section of the city’s Muslim community, who were demanding her ouster from India, the 45-year-old writer was shifted to Jaipur on Nov 22 and then to New Delhi in secrecy and under heavy security.

“Actually, the book – ‘Dwidhandita’ (Split in Two) – was written in 2002 based on my memories in Bangladesh in the 1980s. I am a secular person and when secularism was removed from the constitution there, I felt bad.

“I never had any intention of hurting anyone. But some people in India felt the book hurt their sentiments and so I’m taking away those portions. Now I want to get back to Kolkata,” said Nasreen.

While the intellectuals in Kolkata are satisfied with Nasreen’s decision, the clerics are not impressed.

“We all have some responsibility at the end of the day and I think Taslima by this decision has shown that she is responsible too,” said filmmaker and singer Anjan Dutta.

The Shahi Imam of West Bengal, Noorur Rahman Barkati, told IANS: “We don’t think we can trust her. She had made such promises earlier also, but always went back on them. We are proceeding legally to see her out of India.”

The Intelligence Bureau is keeping Nasreen in a ‘safe house’ within a National Security Guards complex in New Delhi.

In a delicate balancing act, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee promised to “shelter” Nasreen, but urged her to “refrain from activities and expressions” that may hurt the sentiments of Indian people and harm relations with friendly countries.

Mukherjee’s statement came amid the politicisation of the issue of Nasreen’s continuing stay in India with the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanding the status of a political refugee and Indian citizenship for the exiled novelist.