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India's Lajja: Taslima to leave for freedom

  • Thread starter Thread starter Saab
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Dissident Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen has decided that rather than suffer solitary confinement in a 'safe house' where she is kept under virtual house arrest by intelligence agencies, she will "leave India in the next few days to live in freedom" in another country. Nasreen says she has conveyed her decision to officials of the Ministry of External Affairs.

"I wanted to, I still want to, live in India, make it my home. But look at my terrible existence. I can't meet friends; people can't meet me. E kemon bechey thaaka? Is this any way to stay alive?" the author of Lajja (Shame), told The Pioneer on Monday evening.

She describes her stay in the 'safe house' as "incarceration", adding, "My hands have been shackled... I can't accept these chains any more. I am not doing this (leaving India) of my own volition. I am being forced to leave. It gives me no great pleasure to do so."

Nasreen, whose resident permit was extended on February 14 after keeping her on tenterhooks for weeks, says she is not even allowed access to doctors. "I need to urgently consult a cardiologist. I am suffering from high blood pressure. But I am told that I cannot be taken to any hospital, as it will 'create problems'. So I requested them to bring a doctor (to the 'safe house'). But even this they refused to do," she adds.

Unlike previous occasions when she would be feisty and insist that she would not succumb to pressure and leave India, on Monday she sounded tired and despondent. "Aami morey jaabo... ei bhabey thaakley aami baachbo na. (I will die... if I continue to remain in this solitary confinement, I will not survive)," she says, adding, "I want to escape to freedom."

So is she giving up her fight? "If I don't live to fight another day, how can I continue with my struggle? I tried my best to stay in India. All I wanted was to be in Kolkata. If I can't do that, if I cannot be among my friends and the people I love, what's the use of my staying here?" she shoots back.

And then she becomes despondent again. "Because of high blood pressure caused by stress, I have developed heart disease (hypertrophy) and hypertensive retinopathy, which will eventually cause me to go blind. My blood pressure, if uncontrolled, will destroy my heart and kidneys. Tell me, what should I do?" Nasreen, a qualified doctor who gave up her profession to become a writer, asks.

She claims that her request to visit her apartment in Kolkata to collect her bank cards and some documents before she leaves India has been rejected. "Officials of the Ministry of External Affairs have finally had their way," she says.

Nasreen, exiled from Bangladesh since 1994 when Islamic fanatics demanded she be sentenced to death for Lajja, was forced to leave Kolkata, where she had been living for two years, after Muslims rioted on November 21 last year, accusing her of being anti-Islam and demanding she be thrown out of the city and the country. She was brought to Delhi via Jaipur and has been in the custody of Central intelligence agencies since November 23 in a 'safe house' in the National Capital Region, from where she is not allowed to step out.

Nasreen offer to delete 'controversial' passages from her autobiographical book, Dwikhondito, has been ignored.

Kanchan Gupta
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