Taslima leaves India; shame, says Mahasweta Devi

March 20th, 2008 - 12:52 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Taslima Nasreen
(Lead)

Kolkata, March 19 (IANS) Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, confined for nearly four months to a ’safe house’, finally left India Wednesday for medical treatment abroad. Magsaysay winning social activist Mahasweta Devi dubbed her departure as “shame” for India. “I am at Heathrow airport now, waiting for a connecting flight,” Nasreen told a friend in Kolkata from London but it was not yet clear where she was heading to from there.

Sources said she left New Delhi Wednesday morning alleging that she was denied treatment in India and forced to live like a prisoner in a “death chamber”.

Nasreen was almost forced to live in a “safe house” in New Delhi since November-end after she was shunted out of Kolkata following unprecedented street violence over her stay in India and previous writings that criticize Islam and its treatment of women.

Mahasweta Devi, the 82-year-old activist and writer, told IANS: “It is a shame. The circumstances under which she left are reprehensible for a free and secular India.

“I read her email where she described her stay in New Delhi like living in a death chamber. I called her up and asked her to leave and get better treatment,” she said.

“West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee colluded to ensure that she was forced to leave India. It is a conspiracy in the name of Muslim votes.

“Is this independent India? It is a dangerous situation where a woman seeking asylum is put behind walls,” she said.

Earlier, Nasreen told IANS: “I can’t take it any more. I will die if I continue to live like this.”

“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,” she said from her undisclosed address in New Delhi where she was sheltered by the government from fundamentalists.

The author, facing protests, was kept incognito for nearly four months in a place near New Delhi. Security restrictions were imposed on her movement even in Kolkata before she was forced out of the city Nov 21 last year following violent protests.

She was living virtually in a house arrest and was not allowed to receive visitors.

India’s external affairs ministry in mid-February extended her visa but restrictions on her movements continued.

“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. She recently spent a few days in a 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.

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.

In a delicate balancing act, Mukherjee had 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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