India extends visa but for how long, asks Taslima

February 15th, 2008 - 2:50 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Taslima Nasreen

Kolkata, Feb 15 (IANS) India has extended Taslima Nasreen’s visa but the Bangladeshi writer, who is confined to a “safehouse” in New Delhi, has no clue for how long. “Nothing about the duration was specified. I am not sure how long I would be allowed to stay. I don’t know really since the duration is unspecified,” Nasreen told IANS, after the external affairs ministry late Thursday announced its decision following a campaign by writers and intellectuals demanding that she be allowed to stay in India.

Nasreen’s visa - or residential permit - was due to expire Feb 17.

Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna had said while announcing the extension of the visa: “It is incumbent on those who are welcomed as guests in India that they remain sensitive to India’s traditions and do not conduct themselves in a manner that either affects our relations with other countries or cause hurt to our secular ethos.”

When Nasreen was told that since she chose to be a rebel and hence should pay the price of her outspokenness, she said: “I didn’t choose to be a rebel. I only chose to speak the truth. I was targeted because the extremists needed a lone person to target.”

The author came to India after she was threatened by religious extremists in Bangladesh offended by her writings. She has been living in an undisclosed location in the Indian capital since November after she was forced to leave Kolkata following violent protests by Muslim groups.

Nasreen, on whom restrictions on movement remained imposed, ruled out travelling abroad now.

She was recently conferred the Prix Simone de Beauvoir by the French government for her writing but was not allowed to receive the award from French President Nicolas Sarkozy when he visited India last month.

“I first want to go to Kolkata, my home. I can think of other things only after that,” she said.

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

The international community and leading Indian intellectuals, including writers Arundhati Roy and Mahasweta Devi and theatre personalities Girish Karnad and Habib Tanvir, have been campaigning for Nasreen’s freedom and Indian citizenship for her.

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