I don’t want to lose faith in Indian secularism: Taslima


New Delhi : Exiled Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasreen Thursday again made an emotive plea to be allowed to return to Kolkata from her confinement at an undisclosed location in India, saying if she were refused she will lose faith in Indian secularism.

Support TwoCircles

In remarks that may upset some conservative Muslim clerics, Nasreen said that the Uniform Civil Code could be a way to tackle growing Talibanisation of Muslim societies.

In a web chat organised by www.IBNLive.com, the portal of television channel CNN-IBN, Nasreen vented her anger at being forced to move out of Kolkata late last year, which she regards as her home, and said that fanatics cannot deter her from her decision to live in West Bengal.

“I feel very depressed, forced to live out of Kolkata after being thrown out from the city I had been living in. I don’t want to lose my faith in Indian secularism. I hope that I will be allowed to go back home,” she said in response to a question.

“I am a writer. I don’t want to be used for political purposes. My message is: India is not a theocracy. It’s a democracy. They should respect plurality of thought and freedom of expression, which are the pillars of democracy,” she said.

Nasreen was interacting from an undisclosed location near Delhi where the Indian government has kept her due to security reasons.

In her free-wheeling chat on just about every subject concerning her life and work, the author said she would be happy to get permanent citizenship in India.

“I am also proud of India. It is only a handful of fanatics who cause trouble of this kind. Otherwise most Indians, I believe, are liberal,” she said.

When asked what was the solution for the growing Talibanisation of Muslim societies, she said: “True secularisation of the state, secular education and implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and by fighting traditions and customs which are anti-women.”

Saying that fundamentalists “are everywhere, even in the US or Europe,” Nasreen said nothing will stop her from returning to Kolkata.

“I had taken a decision to live in Bengal and will continue to so and not be frightened by a few anti-social hooligans. Those who took over the streets of Kolkata that afternoon haven’t read my book,” she said, referring to a protest demonstration against her in November.

“As an author I am not answerable to them. I repeat, I shall never be frightened by fanatics in my life or worry about my death,” she added.

“I want to reside in Bengal because I speak in Bengali, my culture is Bengali and I write in Bengali. Obviously, I feel at home there.”

Nasreen also stressed that she was drawing hope from the fact that “the majority of people want me in India”. “After all, in a democracy it’s the majority which counts,” she said.

The government last month asked Nasreen to stay under the government security or to leave the country. She was told by officials that she will not be allowed to return to Kolkata for now.

Nasreen, whose novel “Lajja” (Shame) was banned by the Bangladeshi government 13 years ago, was literally hounded out of Kolkata following large-scale violence by a Muslim group demanding cancellation of her visa.

Many Muslim organisations in West Bengal continue to oppose her re-entry in the state, hinting that her presence there may inflame religious passions again.