Free Speech

I tried to say:
‘Freedom of expression is again under attack in India. Penguin India should not have withdrawn Wendy’s book ‘The Hindus’. The publishers should uphold an author’s freedom of expression. Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, the organization that claims that the book has many factual errors,could write a book correcting those errors. The book under attack is currently one of the bestselling books on Amazon. It shows that censorship cannot keep freedom of expression suppressed. In fact, it breeds curiosity and so censorship is really
its own worst enemy.

Penguin India is one of the biggest publishing houses in India. It had all the capacity to fight the court cases it faced. But instead, it compromised with those who do not believe in free speech. Penguin India said, “Indian penal code section 295a, makes it difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression”. It is true, but my question is why don’t you fight for the abolition of the age-old British law, which is used by governments to ban books, harass and imprison authors? Free speech is universal. There is no such thing as national free speech, or international free speech. Like there are no such things as Islamic human rights or Western human rights. Like free speech, human rights are universal.

Writers should have the right to write whatever they like. Everyone should have the right to offend people. Without the right to offend, freedom of expression does not exist. Nobody should have the right to spend his or her entire life without being offended. Don’t we all know that if “Free Speech” means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not like to hear! Without hurting the sentiments of misogynists, obscurantists, ignorant irrationalists — you will not be able to bring change in society. Throughout history always some people’s sentiments were hurt – had to be hurt – especially when society was about to change. In this country when sati was abolished, or girls’ education started, many misogynist sentiments were hurt. But should we care about their so called sentiments or should we help society to evolve, to make the world a better place?

It is dangerous if the government tries to deny people’s freedom of expression in order to protect the sentiments of those who don’t believe in democracy. Many of my books are banned in Bangladesh. My book was banned in West Bengal too. The government of West Bengal not only banned my book, it forced me to leave the state too. The new government banned the release of my book Nirbasan in 2012 and a few months ago forced a TV channel called Akash Ath to stop telecast of a mega serial written by me. The serial was about women’s struggle and how three sisters living in Kolkata fight against patriarchal oppression to live their lives with dignity and honour. She (Mamata Banerjee) banned me in order to appease some misogynist mullahs.

The truth is I am used for the vote bank politics in India. If fundamentalists demand for the banning of books, should governments ban books? Should fundamentalists decide what we should read, write, watch, wear, eat, drink, think? Governments seem to give them the
authority to decide. Fundamentalists do not believe in plurality of thoughts. They do not believe in individual freedom. They believe intheocracy, not in democracy.

Most Indian secularists do not support me. They support writers who are attacked by Hindus, but not the writers who are attacked by Muslims. Salman Rushdie is supported by secularists though, probably because he is not so vocal against Islamic oppression on women the way I am. I am not a man. I am not macho. I am a woman. A single woman at that. And a feminist. We live in a misogynistic, patriarchal societyand people in this society hate feminists.

Freedom of expression is like rape in India. Politicians and intellectuals do not defend everyone’s freedom of expression like they do not condemn every rape. If I could get the same support Wendy got, the TV producer could start broadcasting my mega serial despite government’s threats.’


  1. Neer Varshney says


    India unfortunately does not work like that. A lot has been sacrificed for small political gains, and most of it has emphasis on minorities, and that is why politicians and media does not take a stand against Islamic atrocities!
    But you ought to know, even if the political parties, and the media is not willing to help you, India’s strength to safeguard its democracy, and justice does not end there.

    Though, I really want to know, for my own knowledge since I am a law student, have you or the TV producer approached the Court against the West Bengal government? If yes, then what was the end result?

    And lastly, even if the entire legal system fails you, you always have the people of India to look forward to! You’re mistaken, Indian Secularists are not biased, they too suffer from the same religious bigotries infact. You are very well known throughout the country. You showed this world, how to stand up for your rights, and you can take it further! All you need is a considerably more positive perspective! And a little more faith in your fellow Indians, since as you say you are by heart an Indian!
    Do not expect politicians or the media to stand up for you, because they will not.

    Only you can be the protagonist of your story!

    A person you inspired.

  2. Ek Chakkar says

    The selective secularism, as Ophelia Benson titled her piece, is what drives reasonable people to question their sanity. Why are we asked to constantly appease minorities who have a proven track record of suppressing others when they are in a majority? And this is not even in reference to anything outside India.

    No medal or award is enough for your courage, Taslima Nasreen.

  3. says

    Fanatics win because they are willing to die for their beliefs while Freethinkers are not. The day Freethinkers start paying back fanatics in their own coin, that is the day Fanatics will start losing and losin badly. Evil usually wins in this age of man because Goodness does not even show up to do battle. I myself am afraid of writing something incendiary on these comments section because I know that while the Police will let the fatwaabaz go free, they will trace me and prosecute me with all they have. I see no difference between the state and the Mullahs. They are the same with different names.


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