Exiled Taslima Nasrin to return to Bangladesh
NEW DELHI, July 16 (NNN-BERNAMA) -- After living in exile for years, fiery Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, chased out of her homeland by radical Muslims for her criticisms of how women are treated under Islamic law, wants to return home to continue writing in Bengali, her native language.
"It is difficult to live in exile. I can't go back to Bangladesh because the government does not allow me. If I can't live in Bangladesh, then I choose India but I can't get citizenship here. I have no other place to go. I am worried. I request the Indian government to give me citizenship," she said.
Nasrin, 45, the physician turned writer, poetess and columnist, who had earned the wrath of Islamic fundamentalists for her critical views of the suppression of women in Muslim communities, was speaking to Bernama from her police-protected home in Kolkata.
Nasrin, who had been living in Kolkata for the past seven years after spending more than a decade in Europe, said Bangladesh was still the ideal place to write in her mother tongue.
"I tried for 12 years. They (the Bangladesh government) did not renew my passport and visa. They say fundamentalists might kill me. Europe is closed for me. I don't want to go back. The culture and language are different there (Europe) and it is difficult for me to write in Bengali. I need to hear and speak so that it is easier for me to write," said Nasrin.
Nasrin, sometimes dubbed "the female Salman Rushdie" -- a title she despises -- sparked a furore among hardcore Muslim clerics in 1993 when her book "Lajja", meaning Shame, depicting how Hindu minorities were mistreated in Bangladesh, was published.
Infuriated religious leaders issued a "fatwa" (edict) demanding that she be hanged and even announced a bounty of 5,000 USD on her life.
Fearing for her life, Nasrin fled Bangladesh for Sweden, which offered her asylum, and spent years in Europe before moving to India where she lives on a renewable residential permit.
From her Kolkata home, the low-profile Nasrin continues her critical writings on her favourite subjects -- women's plights, and human rights and religion -- that often land her in hot water.
Despite all her books being banned in Bangladesh and the numerous death threats, the defiant controversial writer continues to challenge the clerics and the system through her pen.
In March this year, an Indian Muslim group offered 500,000 rupees for her beheading. Currently, she is writing another novel relating to women and completing her autobiography.
The Bangladesh government has banned five other books by her -- Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood), Utal Hawa (Gusty Wind), Ko (Speak Up), Dwikhandita (Split in Two) and Sei Sob Ondhokar (Those Dark Days) -- claiming that they contain anti-Islamic sentiments.
Asked if any of her books instilled changes in society, especially on issues related to women, she replied that it had some influence, both in the Indian sub-continent and the West.
"My writing has helped bring some changes among some women who are my readers. They are more conscious about their rights and freedom. It has given them the courage to stand up to fight oppression.
"I feel responsible for the society, not only for Bengali (women) but for all women whether in India or Europe," said Nasrin, adding that growing up in an environment where women were often mistreated provoked her to write about women. -- NNN-BERNAMA