Anti-women book fair committe cancelled the release of a book on women’s rights

It really happened. The book fair committee of the Kolkata Book Fair cancelled the release of a book on women’s rights. The committee did it either to please the government or because they got the order from the government to do so. Is the government anti-women? We heard that the government blamed the raped girls several times for being raped.

An opposition politician protested against the cancellation of the book release. The left leader defended the writer Jasodhara Bagchi. Ms Bagchi was the chairperson of the West Bengal women commission during the Left Front’s rule. The release ceremony of my book titled ‘Nirbasan’ was cancelled by the government in 2012 in order to make some Muslim fanatics happy. Almost everybody was silent then. I said, if you do not protest against the banning, you will be the next target of the banning. It seems I was right.

I now realize that however much you earn recognition and awards, if muslim fanatics are against you ,no political party in the subcontinent would defend your free speech. And I know it very well that if you believe in freedom of expression of some people, but not of all people— you do NOT believe in freedom of expression at all.

How the extremists won

I have known Kolkata since my childhood, through children’s books and stories my parents told me. I came to know it better during my youth, when I finished reading the works of as many superb Bengali writers and poets as I could gather, and also when I published the poems of many contemporary Bengali poets from the East as well as the West while editing and publishing my poetry magazine since 1978. I remember, I visited Kolkata for the first time in the late ‘80s and it was like a dream. I felt I knew and loved Kolkata more than many native Kolkatans. In the early ‘90s, I was the first writer from Bangladesh to receive West Bengal’s most prestigious literary award, the Ananda Puroshkar. Since then I have felt closely related to Kolkata. I got the opportunity to personally meet and come close to many authors and intellectuals whom I held in great regard. I was fortunate to receive their love, sympathy and solidarity. Annada Shankar Ray, Shib Narayan Ray, and Amlan Dutta were the true secular humanist intellectuals in Kolkata.

Something else happened in the early ‘90s, too; I was forced to leave my beloved country and live in exile. I could not accept the idea that a Bengali writer had to leave Bengal simply because some ignorant, insane persons did not like my writings, and therefore, I made several attempts to return to my country, or at least, to West Bengal, which shares a common history and traditions with my country. Sadly, each time, I failed miserably, which left me no alternative but to stay in Europe or America. But whenever India gave me permission to enter, I did not waste a moment; I rushed to Kolkata and met all my friends there: a homeless felt at home, for the first time, while living in exile. I tried a lot and eventually got a Residence Permit to reside in India. No more a constrained tourist, I was a resident in this great country, and I thought that my travails were over. I received my second prestigious literary award for the first part of my memoir, titled My Girlhood (amar meyebela). But, there was to be no respite for me; just a few years thereafter, the West Bengal government banned Dwikhandito, the third part of my memoir. I personally knew Buddhadev Bhattacharyya, then the Chief Minister of West Bengal under the Left Front government. He was initially very friendly towards me, and that is partly why it was so shocking to me that he had banned my book, which was about my struggle opposing religious fanatics. Upon being asked, Mr. Bhattacharyya declared that as many as 25 intellectuals had asked him to ban my book.

But that was not the end of it. What I didn’t realize in my shock and grief was that this information, involving a few authors in Bangladesh, was a secret and not supposed to come out. The late Sunil Gangopadhaya, an accomplished writer and close friend of Mr. Bhattacharya, was the most displeased and excoriated me, saying that it was very bad form to disclose the things that happened behind the closed door between two people. Anyway, I didn’t think that the book was banned because I honestly told my life stories; some other reasons must have been given to justify banning the book. Then I found out that it was banned on the charges of ‘hurting religious feelings of Muslims’. Now Muslims got to know that a book was written by an author named Taslima Nasreen who hurt Muslim religious feelings. That was when Kolkata began to change. When the government bans your book, the fundamentalists are encouraged and enthused; they are inspired to find you a soft target. They feel the government will side with them. The Islamic fundamentalists started issuing fatwas against me; they set prices on my head. It happened in Kolkata first, and other cities followed suit.

Yes, other cities must have been inspired by Kolkata fatwa; I was physically attacked by Islamic fundamentalists in Hyderabad. The fundamentalists won’t dare touch a writer if they are not convinced they will go scot-free after such acts. To be honest, it was the politicians of the Indian subcontinent who had labeled me ‘anti-Islam’ by referring to my books as ‘controversial’ and banning them. Suddenly, everyone was concerned about the ‘feelings’ of the fundamentalists. I was a lone exiled writer, not a member of any political party or any large organization; I became an easy target of the fanatics, as well as of the governments of two countries. The West Bengal government used me for diverting the attention from the political fallouts of their dastardly actions in Nandigram and Singur, and then decided to throw me out of the state, eventually out of the country. Fanatics and fundamentalists, amongst the Muslim folks who took to the streets to protest against the killing of Muslims in Nandigram and Singur by the goons of the ruling communist party, had held up a piece of paper that said, “Taslima, go back.” This demand by the Islamic fundamentalists to deport Taslima was fulfilled with alacrity by the West Bengal government; the officials had started asking me to leave West Bengal since August, and they were desperate to make it happen by the end of November. They did get their wish: the attention of people was diverted for a few days. Ultimately, however, the CPIM could not win the election, but they did successfully send a signal to the Muslim fanatics that they managed to throw an ‘anti-Islam’ apostate like me out of their precious state.

The CPIM party used me in order to secure the Muslim votes during the past election; the Muslim fanatics used me in order to demonstrate the strength of fundamentalist faith even in a supposedly secular country. Ms. Mamata Banerjee, the current Chief Minister of West Bengal under the Trinamool Congress government, is inexplicably walking the same path as did her predecessors, the CPIM. She might oppose everything that CPIM did in this state, but agreed on one idea – that Taslima must not be allowed into West Bengal. Because both political parties do the exact same thing, that is, appease the Muslim fanatics, in order to retain their votes. Salman Rushdie was not allowed to reach West Bengal. The current West Bengal government prevented his entry into Kolkata. The Left Front parties, currently sitting in the Opposition, do not object to this decision of the government. How can they? Because what Ms. Banerjee is doing with me and Rushdie is not at all different from what they did with me just a little while ago.

I am thankful for the fact that India, as a country, has shown a degree of commendable religious tolerance in my case; I have at least been allowed to live here. Had it been Bangladesh or Pakistan, I would have been most likely dead by now. At the same time, I do believe that had my book not been banned in 2003, I would not have been thrown out of Kolkata in 2007; had I not been thrown out of Kolkata, Rushdie could have gone on to visit Kolkata, this wonderful city of intellectuals with a rich literary history. The sad fact of life is that once a government bows down to the fanatics, the fanatics are immeasurably encouraged and emboldened – and the trend is set.

Some famous male writers in Bengal are worse than Muslim religious fanatics.

”It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”— Noel Coward

Religious fanatics issue fatwas and demand the book banning of the writers who challenge them. Their demonstrations and processions end to a cul-de-sac or to a mosque.

But megalomaniac, misogynistic, macho male writers and their male dominated media are able to go far beyond mosques and can ban you, blacklist you, and banish from your land if you ever dare to challenge them. They are much more influential than moulavis and mullahs, much more clever and dangerous than idiot ignorant zombies.

Islamic fundamentalists in the Indian subcontinent can not ban books. It is the government who ban books to please the fundamentalists. They often fulfill the demands of fundamentalists for their own political interests. We know about politicians. Don’t we? But we expect writers and intellectuals to protest against banning and censorship. They do, but not always. If you are not submissive to big male writers and if you do not follow all the patriarchal rules of literary world, your life will be hell. They could not tolerate that me a much younger writer selling more books than them, and I was not scared to challenge their male dominated fake literary world full of lies and hypocrisy. They are powerful, because they control male dominated media and keep very good relation with corrupt corporates and people in the power.
They are lords. They can do anything they want. One of them was Syed Shamsul Haque, an abuser and a liar. He not only banned my book, he filed a million dollar libel case against me. What was my crime? My crime was I wrote what he told me about his emotional relationship with his sister-in-law and how he dishonored me. He knows very well that I will not be able to defend myself, the government does not allow me to enter Bangladesh and there is no one in the country who has courage to stand beside me, and he is in the land where no democracy but idiocracy rules, and in this situation, it will be very easy for him to file case against me and ban the book. He committed crime by banning the book in 2003. It’s 2012, the book is still banned. It was not banned by the government but was banned by the high court because of the law suit of SSH, the famous hypocrite writer, the supporter of banning and censorship. No trial took place. Only the heinous crime against the truth took place. What have the local human rights activists or women’s rights activists been doing? They love to keep silent. They are mostly power worshipers, anti-feminists, pro-religion.

Another famous writer from the West part of Bengal took initiative to ban my book. He is Sunil Gangopadhyay, a famous Bengali literary guru and the president of Sahitya Akademi. He was behind the banning of my book Dwikhandito in 2003 and was the supporter of my banishment from West Bengal in 2007.

It seems people in the media forgets what they wrote about the role Sunil Gangopadyay played to ban my book in 2003. Some proofs are here:

Sunil Gangopadhyay said to Inter Press Service, “The book has passages of tirade on religion which could incite riots. It is not literature. . . it is almost pornography. It should be banned as it misuses freedom of expression.”

‘Author Sunil Gangopadhyay, one of those who support the ban said, ..people who bother to read it will be disappointed.’ Another Indian newspaper wrote, ‘Several noted authors including the poet Sunil Gangopadhyay, the novelists, Dibyendu Palit, Nabanita Deb Sen, and Syed Mustafa Siraj, the Bangladeshi novelist, Sams-ul Huq, the singer Suman Chatterjee, as well as the Trinamul Congress leader and Kolkata mayor, Subrata Mukherjee, among others, have come out openly against the book and have supported the decision by the state LF government to get the book banned.‘ They just copied the news from CPI(M)’s mouthpiece People’s Democracy (07.12.03).

And a whole book (Nishiuddho mot, Dwikhandito poth) was published with all the historical documents related the banning of Dwikhandito, Government’s ban order, Sunil and other writers proposals to ban the book, and the High Court verdict to lift ban on the book. The book is available in Bengal. .
It was all over Bengali media how the writer Sunil Gangopadhyay insisted to ban another writer’s book. He was a very good friend of former West Bengal government who finally banned the book. In his interview in Aajkal, a Bengali newspaper, he said in details how he played an active role to ban the book. aajkal1 , Aajkal2

Everybody knew how Dwikhandito, the 3rd part of my autobiography was banned. Here the journalist says, ‘Writer Sunil Gangopadhyay says that he finds the sexual content of the book “distasteful” but supports the ban only on account of two pages that harshly indict Islam. Commenting on Taslima’s discussion of her sexual relationships with eminent writers, he says, “Everybody knows that adults enter a sexual relationship on the basis of an unwritten pact, which is why they close all doors and windows. If someone breaks that trust then it is a breach of contract and confidentiality which is not only distasteful but an offence”.

I would not have reminded him about his role to ban my book if he did not lie that he was against the banning of any book and he protested against the banning of my book Dwikhandito.

While I was thinking of his lies, I shared my painful experience that he sexually exploited me once, and also many other girls and women. I was a well established feminist writer, if he did not spare me, then whom did he spare? Even though he said, ‘.. if she has been sexually harassed by me, which must happened long time ago. ‘, some media and some men try to blame me for ‘lying against the saint’. They are definitely angry with me. I must not accuse a famous male writer of any abuse or anything no matter whatever his crime is. The media financed by the political party that stands against his political ideas using my statement against him, for their own political interests. Does the anti-Sunil media supports me? Not at all. They are very much against my thoughts and ideals. Sex abuse issues are human rights issues, but human rights activists are silent as usual, they are silent because it is not politically correct to support me, who challenges patriarchy and religion, especially Islam. It is an unforgivable crime to speak against the status quo in the Indian Subcontinent.

Defenders of abusers are now asking why I am complaining now, why did not I do then when it happened? As if, if I don’t share my painful experience within a certain time,I should be disqualified. As if, if I complained then, something different could have happened, as if people could have blamed him! No, the same thing would have happened. I would have been harassed again by media and men for telling the truth.

For telling the truth I was thrown out of Bangladesh, my country. For telling the truth I was bundled out of West Bengal, where I settled to live for the rest of my life. For telling the truth I have been banned, blacklisted, and banished from the lands I was born and brought up or I chose to live. I am a social and political pariah, because I tell the truth. The male dominated Bengali literary world has been so far successful to blackout me. My crime is I have told the unpleasant truth about religion and I disclosed the secrets of those sex-abuser gurus who pretend to be philosophers and intellectuals, defenders of human rights and freedom of expression.

They want us to shut our mouth. If we don’t, they get very angry with us, and they say all the bad things about us, and all the lies about us. But thousands of silent women know that I am telling their untold stories. They are not coming out of the closet. But one day they will. I will not see that to happen in my lifetime, but I am trying to create an environment for them. In the meantime I will be violently abused, I will be deported, I will almost be killed by influential and powerful misogynists.