I want to live, so I am leaving: Taslima

March 17th, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Taslima Nasreen
By Sujoy Dhar
Kolkata, March 17 (IANS) “I can’t take it any more. I will die if I continue to live like this,” Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen said Monday in a choked voice as she announced her decision to leave India for medical treatment abroad. “I am losing my eyesight, my heart is damaged. I have to survive. I am dying like this. I have to immediately get good treatment because I am not even getting cardiologists here,” Nasreen told IANS over phone from the undisclosed destination in New Delhi where she has been sheltered by the government.

“Parchina, parchina, parchina (I can’t, I can’t, I can’t),” she said, after meeting foreign ministry officials.

For her own safety, the author has been kept incognito for nearly four months in a place near New Delhi while security restrictions were imposed on her movement even in Kolkata before she was forced out of the city last year following protests.

“For about seven months now I am living like this. I cannot live like this any more,” she said.

India’s foreign ministry in mid-February extended her visa but restrictions on her movements continued as she was kept confined in a “safe house” by the government since she was shunted out of Kolkata on Nov 21 last year.

“I don’t know where I am going right now and when. An airline ticket can be purchased online anytime. But I am finally leaving so that I can survive. Whatever damage has been caused has been caused. I have to get treatment now to just be alive and save the rest of me,” she said.

“I want to come back to Kolkata - my home - if I am allowed and not put in prison like this again. Right now my only concern is to live and get proper medical attention,” said Nasreen who recently spent a few days in New Delhi hospital.

“Stress and hypertension is killing me. There is already a big damage to my heart. I need to save the rest,” she said.

“My world is in Kolkata. I have not been allowed to visit the city and collect my own belongings. I hope my friends in Kolkata would help me since I am not allowed to go there,” she said.

Nasreen was living in Kolkata since 2004 after she was forced to leave Bangladesh.

She earlier told IANS: “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 government’s objective. What purpose would it serve if I live like this?” she asked.

A section of intellectuals continue to mobilise support for the writer whose fearless expressions on the state of women in Muslim society 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 are campaigning for Nasreen’s freedom and Indian citizenship for her. But the government has been unmoved so far.

Nasreen, who was recently conferred the Prix Simone de Beauvoir by the French government for her writing, was not allowed to receive the award in person from French President Nicolas Sarkozy when he visited India in January.

West Bengal’s ruling Left Front shunted out Nasreen Nov 21 last year after street violence in Kolkata over her extended stay in India.

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 a safe house.

In an earlier interview, the 45-year-old author had said impassionedly: “I am only breathing. I don’t think I am alive like you are. Can anybody live like this? It was beyond my imagination that in a secular democracy like India, such a thing could happen to a writer.”

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

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

In a delicate balancing act, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has promised to “shelter” Nasreen but urged her to “refrain from activities and expressions” that may hurt the sentiments of Indian people and harm relations with friendly countries.

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