Taslima’s visa extended


New Delhi/Kolkata : India Thursday extended controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen’s visa, but advised her not to “hurt the sentiments of the many communities”.

Support TwoCircles

The external affairs ministry made the announcement late in the evening following a campaign by writers and intellectuals demanding she should he allowed to stay in India.

Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said India has extended the visa for Nasreen, who has come to India after she was threatened by religious extremists in Bangladesh offended by her writings.

Nasreen’s visa – or residential permit – was due to expire Feb 17.

“It is incumbent on those who are welcomed as guests in India that they remain sensitive to India’s traditions and do not conduct themselves in a manner that either affects our relations with other countries or cause hurt to our secular ethos,” the spokesman said.

He added that such guests should “not undertake actions that could hurt the sentiments of the many communities that make up our multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation”.

Earlier in the day, Nasreen told IANS on telephone from the safe house near New Delhi where she has been staying: “An external affairs ministry official told me that my permit would be extended. But I would not be allowed to move out of this place, meet friends, accept guests or return to Kolkata.

“I am myself surprised that I am living like this. My only hope is that one day I will be able to return to Kolkata where I have set up a home over the years. But that is like hoping against hope going by the developments.

“I am pretty confused about the objective of the government. What purpose would it serve if I live like this?” she asked.

“I am not happy. I am living in stress. But I want to live in India and return to Kolkata. So I am bearing it all.”

The ministry spokesman said that some “restraints” were also respected by Indians themselves, which should be respected by “guests” in this country. “These are the same restraints which we in India follow. We expect nothing less from our guests,” Sarna said.

“Throughout its history, India has a tradition of offering hospitality to those who seek it. It has also afforded protection to those who have come as our guests. Ms. Taslima Nasreen is our guest and, in keeping with our traditions, we have offered her the same privileges,” he said.

Nasreen is currently living in an undisclosed location in the Indian capital, after she was forced to leave Kolkata following violent protests by Muslim groups in November 2007.

West Bengal’s ruling Left Front, which is going all out to garner Muslim votes, shunted out Nasreen on Nov 21 last year after street riots in Kolkata over her extended stay in India.

She was recently conferred the Prix Simone de Beauvoir by the French government for her writing, but she was not allowed to receive the award from French President Nicolas Sarkozy when he visited India last month.

Nasreen, who was already living confined in a Kolkata apartment, was taken first to Jaipur and then to New Delhi by the central government and has since been kept in confinement at a safe house.

On Nov 30, 2007 Nasreen had agreed to expunge controversial portions from her biography “Dwikhandita” (Split in Two).

Though patriarch of the state’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Jyoti Basu said on Dec 25 that Nasreen was welcome to return to Kolkata, the Left Front government has chosen to remain silent on her plight.

A section of intellectuals have mobilised support for the writer whose fearless expressions on the state of women in Islam and the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh antagonised clerics and governments, forcing her to live in exile and under heavy security since the 1990s.

The international community and leading Indian intellectuals, including writers Arundhati Roy and Mahasweta Devi and theatre personalities Girish Karnad and Habib Tanvir, besides many others, have been campaigning for Nasreen’s freedom and Indian citizenship for her.