France wants India to let Taslima travel to Paris

New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS) French President Nicolas Sarkozy, not wishing to court a controversy during his first here this weekend, has asked India to let Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen travel to Paris to receive the Prix Simone de Beauvoir.

“The President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, has asked that Taslima Nasreen be invited to France so that the prize Prix Simone de Beauvoir, which has been awarded to her, may be given to her officially,” the French embassy here said in a statement Thursday.

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It added that France was “grateful to the Indian authorities for all measures that they may kindly take to facilitate Nasreen’s journey to France”.

The French government has announced the prestigious award for the controversial author, who is currently staying at an undisclosed location in Delhi under government security after she faced violent protests from a Muslim group in Kolkata.

While the author wanted to receive the award from Sarkozy during his India visit Jan 25-26, the Indian government was not eager to fire up tempers of a section of the Muslim community and the plan for an award ceremony in Delhi was quietly dropped.

“I was contacted by the French government last night (Monday) and they told me that the French president would like to hand me the award. But I learnt from a report in a Bengali daily that I perhaps would not be able to receive it in public,” Nasreen told IANS Tuesday.

On Thursday, the external affairs ministry spokesperson refused to answer a query on any plan for a public award ceremony for Nasreen.

The Bangladeshi author was forced to leave Kolkata – where she was living since quitting Bangladesh following a fatwa – and go into hiding, after violence over alleged blasphemous remarks in her book.

She agreed to expunge the controversial portions from her biography “Dwikhandita” on Nov 30.