Free speech

Pineapple story.


Jesus and MO t-shirts story.


Atheist,humanist and secularist students are under attack, not in the temples or mosques but in the universities, the institutions of learning of the highest level. They are humiliated, threatened and banned. Instead of protecting freedom of expression the authorities have been protecting a bunch of irrational myths. Nothing is more dangerous than the ideas that our secular institutions have to behave like religious institutions and instead of enlightening students it is alright to keep them in the dark.

Why don’t we file cases against the people who violate people’s freedom of expression? We should not let them go unopposed.

Europe should give asylum to Edward Snowden.

Why India, Europe should give asylum to Snowden.

Edward Snowden asked 21 nations for political asylum. He got nothing but rejection, proving once again that free speech is just a decorative item for most governments. India’s embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s request for asylum. His request was rejected within hours. Since then, there has been much discussion about India’s generosity over giving shelter to persecuted people—and so then, why not Snowden? India has in the past granted political asylum to Dalai Lama and many other rebels. Some even mention my name in the list.

I am not sure whether I should be considered a political refugee in India. I was thrown out of my country, Bangladesh, in 1994 and found myself landing in Europe. It was difficult for me to live in a place which has a totally different climate, culture and language from where I grew up. Since I knew I couldn’t return to my country, I wanted to come to India. But India kept her doors firmly shut. Towards the end of 1999, I was given permission to visit as a tourist.

I came to India not as a persecuted writer or as an asylum seeker, but as a European citizen. I eagerly chose India’s state of West Bengal as my new home. But when I was physically attacked by Muslim fundamentalists, instead of taking act­ion against them, the government kept me under house arrest. Not only that, I was repeatedly asked to leave the state and, preferably, the country. When a group of Muslim fundamentalists orga­nised a protest against my stay in India, I was thrown out of Bengal, the state that had been my home for years. Finally, the central government took charge and put me in a safehouse. But there was pressure from the Centre too for me to leave the country. I had to leave, but I did not give up. I am now given permission to live in India again. My enemies are just a handful of anti-democracy, anti-equality, anti-women, ignorant fanatics but yet India often hesitates to challenge them.

I’m not surprised India refused Snowden asylum. How can a country give asylum to a person chased by the almighty US when it panics over giving a residence permit to a secular writer? But with India, one underst­ands; it can’t afford to take risks or make any big political mistake now. Indeed, a Eur­opean country should have given Snowden asylum. They have a long tradition of defending writers and journalists. Compared to India, they have a much older, truer democracies, and violation of rights and free speech is a rarity there. It’s time for Europe to show they are not mere colonies of the US. However glorious a past India may have had, it can not afford to face possible US sanctions. If democracy were practised everywhere, and if it were not reduced to mere elections, independent voices from independent countries would have been respected. As it stands, the human species is yet to make the world an evenly civilised place. Until it happens, we ordinary people have to pay the brunt, and have to sacrifice our dignity, honor, rights and freedom.

I really feel sorry for Snowden. If I were a country, I’d have given him asylum.

If you have encouraged barbarism once, you are done for.

Salman Rushdie was barred from entering Kolkata. The news, though unfortunate, was hardly surprising. Been there, done that. For the past 25 years, my freedom of speech has been trampled upon. I have been living the unsavory life of an exile; despite writing in Bangla, I am persona non grata in both sides of Bengal. I have been physically assaulted, and there are at least seven or eight separate prices on my head. How on earth can anything like this ever surprise me again?

Today the atmosphere is rife with loud, grief-stricken wails and funerary dirges from certain quarters because Rushdie was prevented from entering Kolkata. Those who are crying a river now were mostly silent or supporting ban in 2003, when my autobiographical book, “Dwikhandito”, was banned by the West Bengal government. At that time, Muslims had not taken to the streets, or demanded any restriction on the book. Rather, the-then Chief Minister of the state, Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, instituted the ban proactively; the odious idea of the ban had its genesis in his mind. Ostensibly, he did mention that a group of about 25 intellectuals importuned him with the task of banning – but he should have realized that those who whine in favor of the censorship of an author, are anything but intellectuals. The reasons presented to bolster the idea of the ban were baseless and ridiculous, a fact that was borne out when, in just a couple of years thereafter, the Honorable Kolkata High Court made the same observation, lifting the ban. I was (and still am) at a loss to understand why Mr. Bhattacharya felt so obliged to come down heavily against freedom of expression, which is the cornerstone of democracy.

It was a time when I’ve been living in the city of Kolkata. Following the ban, Mr. Bhattacharya, an erstwhile friend of mine, had started to maintain a safe distance from me – a sad situation which didn’t change even after the ban was lifted. I naively thought perhaps he had realized the error of his ways, but I was grossly mistaken. Immediately after the Islamic fundamentalists assaulted me in Hyderabad, he was finalizing his new designs. I don’t know how many of the so-called intellectuals were complicit in that. I am a harmless, harassed, and homeless author; I never had a clue about political machinations. In August 2007, Islamic fundamentalist leaders of Kolkata banded together with the fundamentalists from Hyderabad to hold a large rally at the center of the city – a rally with the express purpose of putting a price on my head. If someone beheads me, he will be awarded an ‘unlimited amount’ of money. High officials of the Police were present there, and yet, that day, no one was arrested on charge of issuing an illegal Fatwa; rather, the fundamentalists were felicitated. But under this pretext, Mr. Bhattacharya started sending high-ranking Police officials to my residence, with the idea of intimidating me into leaving Kolkata, or West Bengal, or perhaps even the country. Why did I have to leave? Apparently, if I stayed back at Kolkata, the government said, it would hurt the feelings of the faithful Muslims of the city.

Meanwhile, around this particular time, the state government was in a royal mess regarding the affairs in Nandigram and Singur, and the case of Rizwanur. The ruling Communist Party had earned the wrath of the Muslim community. On the 21st of November, a few people emerged from a Park Circus alleyway and started setting vehicles on fire and pelting stones at the police. Their anger was about the political murders of Muslims in Nandigram and Singur, and the myserious death of Rizwanur Rehman. At the end of the day, someone lifted up a piece of paper for the benefit of the media: on it was written, “Taslima go back.” That was the excuse the government was looking for. I was picked up from home and sent to Jaipur, on the other side of the country. The ticket was already purchased by Mr. Bhattacharya – a one way ticket. I haven’t been able to set foot on West Bengal since, even though my home, cat, friends were all left back in Kolkata. I was thrown out of Bangladesh, too. But my eviction from West Bengal was even more heartless and painful. Mamata Bandyopadhyay, the current Chief Minister, may well not see eye to eye with her predecessor, Mr. Bhattacharya, on any issue, but she sure agrees with him that Taslima has no place in West Bengal. In this regard, she has faithfully followed the footsteps of Mr. Bhattacharya. Last year, in the prestigious and tradition-rich Kolkata Book Fair, the release ceremony for my book “Nirbasan” (Exile) was canceled by her government.

While Rushdie’s unceremonious exclusion didn’t surprise me, I am putting my outrage and protest on record against this. I have protested against the unlawful abridgement of the freedom of expression of creative people such as Maqbool Fida Hussain, A K Ramanujan, James Lein, Rohinton Mistry, and Kamal Hassan. When fundamentalists make a demand to the government, however unjust or plain wrong, the government has a propensity for buckling down. The proffered reason is mostly a variation of “not to offend” them or “preventing a communal disturbance” by them; the same or similar reasons have been used time and again to justify unreasonable and undemocratic decisions taken by the government. This were the reasons given for banning my book – the same reasons advanced to prevent Rushdie from visiting Kolkata for half a day. Clearly, the state has gone to pot, and the sole responsibility lies with Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya. Had he not banned my book that day in a cowardly manner, had he not thrown me out for life, Rushdie could have set foot in Kolkata without a hitch.

Mr. Bhattacharya has given strength and encouragement to the fundamentalists. Now they can reach all the way to the airport, and hold up the another piece of paper saying ‘Rushdie go back’. And why not? They have been given to understand that they would be furnished with whatever they desire, sometimes even before they ask for it. Today, Mr. Bhattacharya claims that had he been in power, he would have facilitated Rushdie’s visit. That’s a lie. Even if he had been willing, the fundamentalist Frankenstein that he helped create would have brought its considerable weight to bear against it; it would have rioted. Evicting Taslima did not ultimately win Mr. Bhattacharya and his party a single extra vote; the same Frankenstein had defeated him in the elections. The outcome, in any event, would not have been different.

Not only in West Bengal, I have encountered intolerance in the rest of India, too. Mufti of Kashmir brought out a fatwa banning young women from singing. Kamal Hasan’s movie was not allowed to be screened in Tamil Nadu. Art galleries cannot display nudes. Continued indulgence to intolerance has raised it to impunity. Once you have mollycoddled intolerance, once you have made nice with barbarism, that is how it is going to be for the rest of your life. The problem is not with barbarism, it is your fault; you have invited it in. You have drunk from the poisoned chalice. Now, when death is nigh, at least confess to your sins, would you not?

Meanwhile, the question remains: for how long would this situation be allowed to continue? How much longer will the government display this cowardice in facing the fundamentalists? How much longer will it accede to unwarranted, unfair and irrational demands from these groups? Unlike Bangladesh or Pakistan, India is a democracy – the largest democracy in the world. India’s democracy doesn’t have the shaky, nominal pretensions to democracy of the flavor practised by its neighbors. India now stands alongside the developed countries in technology, power, education and stability. Why is such a great country lending itself to abuse by regressive fundamentalists? Intimidated by the fear of a handful few, the elected representatives have not hesitated to dishonor the Indian Constitution (Article 19A), or objected to pushing the nation back a thousand years. Worst of all, these fearful actions and disgusting pusillanimity of people in position of authority have had a terrible unintended consequence; they have been instrumental in painting a whole community, a whole religion as an intolerant, barbaric one. Who would bear that responsibility?

The only visible concern seems to be winning elections. Let the country rot, let the nation’s future go to hell – I must win the elections. Acceding pathetically to the unjust demands made by some immature, illiterate, uncouth, crazy, misogynistic extremists, the undemocratic enemies of progress, some people in power have been taking away the fundamental freedoms of civilized, educated, enlightened and progressive littérateurs and intellectuals. This can only result in the enhancement of power and prestige of the fundamentalists, encouraging them towards further atrocities. I can say unequivocally that such people are the enemies of the state. My life is at risk, but I shall not be silenced.

Translated from Bengali to English by Kausik Datta (@kausikdatta22)

Stupid Egyptian court ordered stupid death sentences over a stupid film

‘Seven Coptic Egyptians are sentenced to death by an Egyptian court for their connection to an inflammatory anti-Islam film.’

Stupid people protested all over the world against the stupid film.

Stupid followers of a cunning man have been burning down the towns, slitting throats, beheading people or stoning people to death in the name of stupid religion for more than 1400 years. They still don’t want to stop. Their courts are as nonsense as their beliefs.

Do stupid people always outnumber sane people?