Intellectuals bat for Taslima`s return to Kolkata

Kolkata: Demanding the return of exiled controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen to Kolkata, a section of intellectuals and rights activists have alleged that the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal was silent on the issue as it was "apprehensive of a backlash from Islamic fundamentalists".

"Being an author, why can`t Taslima have the independence to write? It`s the readers who decide what they want to read. Readers haven`t spurned her. Let there be a decision on her return," said Magsaysay-winning author Mahasweta Devi in a letter that was read out at a meeting Thursday organised by intellectuals and activists.

Nasreen, author of the controversial "Lajja" was exiled from the city on this day (Nov 22) in 2007 after some religious clergy issued a fatwa against her. The issue also sparked violence, and the then Left Front government deported her from the state.

Since then, Nov 22 has been observed as "Lajja Diavs" (Day of Shame) by a section a intellectuals and rights activists.

Observing that readers had not raised any objection to Nasreen`s writing, Mahasweta Devi demanded that she be allowed to return to the city so that she could continue to write.

"I sincerely hope and wish that Taslima returns to Kolkata and keeps writing like she used to. Writing in the state is not an offence. This government has come to power only because the people who voted had desired a change," she said in the letter.

Speaking on the occasion, noted educationalist Sunando Sanyal accused the incumbent government of being silent on the issue.

"Perhaps the government is afraid of a backlash from islamic fundamentalists. The people who earlier had criticised the decision are now in power but unfortunately they are silent," said Sanyal.

Human rights activist Sujato Bhadra said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had clearly denied providing any help in this matter.

"Last year I met her (Banerjee) but she clearly said she could not help us. But we will continue to raise our voice demanding Nasreen`s return," said Bhadra.

Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994, after "Lajja", published in 1993, became hugely controversial for its depiction of a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims.

Nasreen has since lived in exile in different cities, including New Delhi.