Jaipur Literature Festival organisers under pressure to ban Taslima Nasreen from festival in future

NB: The report below states that the Rajasthan Muslim Forum, All India Milli Council, Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Personal Law Board referred to Taslima as a “disputed” personality; and that she was living in exile since 1994 for her controversial book, Lajja. On this ground they have demanded that she should not be invited again. If the report is correct, and the JLF's organisers have indeed decided not to invite her in future this signifies another retreat in the face of communal intimidation; and another nail in the coffin of freedom of expression. Taslima's opponents should know that her book Lajja depicted the torments undergone by a Hindu family during the communal riots in Bangladesh after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. In brief, she defended the human rights of religious minorities in her country. It is for this reason she was hounded out of Bangladesh. 

Would not the Rajasthan Muslim Forum, All India Milli Council, Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Personal Law Board wish democratic writers and intellectuals to defend their rights to live in peace in India in a similar circumstance? Is it not true that today, human rights defenders in India are being harassed by the Modi regime? Do these opponents of Taslima consider the NDA government to be acting justly by targeting secular activists? Have they defended the rights of Bangladeshi bloggers done to death by fanatics for simply airing their beliefs?

The hounding of Taslima Nasrin by the self-styled representatives of 'Muslim sentiment' is a shame and an abomination. It is as horrible as the persecution of M F Husain by the Hindu communalists. The bloodthirsty threats issued to her remind us of the fate of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi. She has every right to criticise the communalisation of Bangladeshi politics, as she has a right to criticise Islam. No religion is above criticism, and the freedom of religion does not imply that atheists be silenced. The JLF organisers should not bow to this kind of communal pressure and intimidation and Taslima should be absolutely free to speak her mind anywhere she wants. As a friend and well-wisher of the JLF, I appeal to the organisers to stand firm against the demand to keep her out of the festival. Those who disagree with her may be asked to debate with her in public if they have the courage. DS

At Jaipur Literature Festival on Monday Taslima Nasreen’s argument of applying Uniform Civil Law to raise the status of Muslim women in the country drew a protest by several organisations, after which the Bangladeshi writer and activist will not be invited to the function in the future, said the organisers. Nasreen was there at an impromptu session where she spoke about Muslim women who are oppressed because there are some Islamic fundamentalists who wouldn’t hear any criticism of Islam. Many organisations like Rajasthan Muslim Forum, All India Milli Council, Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Personal Law Board against this saying she is a “disputed” personality as she is living in exile since 1994 for her controversial book, Lajja. The protesters demanded that she should not be invited again.

Sanjoy K Roy, Producer of JLF told PTI, “They expressed their anger…. I heard them out. Explained we supported minorities in every way. Underscored that we are a platform for all points of view. Agreed that we should consider their request not to re-invite them.” Protesters told PTI Nasreen’s name was not in the catalogue of the Jaipur Literature Festival this year. The police and organisers supported her inspite knowing her “disputed” reputation. Nasreen was there at the Writers-in-Prison Committee of PEN International for session named Exile on Monday. She spoke about her new book Exile. During her talk she said, “Without serious criticism of Islam, you will not be able to make Islamic countries secular. The women will continue to suffer and be oppressed,” she said.

“I don’t believe in nationalism, religious fundamentalism. I believe in one world. I believe in rights, freedom, humanism and rationalism. Until Islam accepts criticism, no Islamic country can be considered secular. Whenever I criticise, people want to kill me,” she said. Nasreen is mostly noted for her awards in literature and her daring criticism of religion.

see also

The Broken Middle (on the 30th anniversary of 1984)

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