Taslima Nasrin's present plight: A conversation with me
Published on March 10, 2008
On twenty-ninth February 2008 around 3 p.m. Bangladesh time, my telephone rang. A female sweet voice inquired, "May I speak to Professor Ajoy Roy please? `Speaking' was my answer.
`Ajoy babu, Ami Taslima' (Mr. Roy, I am Taslima), the anxious female voice imploded. `Kon Taslima' (which Taslima)?, was my query ?
`Ami Taslima Nasrin' (It is me, sir, Taslima Nasrin). `What a pleasant surprise, where from are you calling'?
Her voice sounded so clear and distinct that for a moment I thought as if she is in Dhaka. `My god, are you in Dhaka by any chance'. I could not believe it!
`No, sir. I do not know exactly where I am. Only thing I know, as told by the security people, that I am somewhere in Delhi', I heard melancholy Taslima's lamenting voice. .
Honestly speaking, this is the last thing I expected even in my dream Taslima would be in touch with me in her present unbearable inhuman sufferings. Any way miracle does happen, it seems. If you, materialists, however agree to call this a miracle. Let us call it a chance phenomenon. I wish I had many more such chance but pleasant phenomena or events.
`Ajoy Babu, Ami gato koyek mas jabat, apnake jogajoger chestha korchhi, kintu parchhilam na. Ami prai bondini. (Ajoy Sir, I have been trying to contact you for the last few months since I was forcibly taken away from Calcutta. I am almost a captive now in a solitary small house.' Only contact device I have now, are my laptop and a cell phone.' she continued.
When I reminded her that last time I saw her in Kolkata I left with her my telephone numbers and emails, she answered,
"I had to leave Kolkata in a hurry, could not bring my notes and diaries except some personal belongings. As a result I lost all your contacts.'
`How come then you got me on telephone'?, my inquisitiveness continued.
`At time I thought of writing to Avijit, your son, whose email address I had for your email address. But all on a sudden, I got your telephone number in a corner of some personal papers. Perhaps I wrote it down when you contacted me from Dhaka before coming to Kolkata last year in March. (hotath korei peye gelum. Dhekhi ekta kagojer konai apnar phone numerti lekha royechhe)"
Readers, last year when I was in Kolkata, I saw her in her Kolkata residence. We had a long chat on Bangladesh, India and on international affairs. Our main theme of discussion moved around `how to combat worldwide aggressive fundamentalism, especially Islamic fundamentalism mixed with terrorism, a phenomenon that has almost swallowed the civilized world. We agreed that at present, the Islamic fundamentalism with its octopus-like limbs and Ravanic twenty hands & ten mouths has become a threat to civilization & culture and all that stands for good, great, beauty (Satyam Shivam Sundaram), fineness, logic and rationalism. Our talk lasted not less than three hours during which she served with excellent Indian dishes cooked by herself, as she told me. She is really very nice cook apart from her poetic talents. I always considered and still of the opinion that above all she is a poet of rare talents. Had she been not gone through such plights she would have been bloomed into one of the most creative poets in Bangla literature? She touches your hearts as well as your intelligent mind.
Though I found her little home sick, but never could foresee what was waiting for her in a few months time last year. It all started, as you readers remember, with a small incident in Hyderabad. But the central government failed fore read what is in store for Taslima Nasrin and failed to measure the strength of the communal and Islamic fundamentalists' grand design. How a secular democratic government in Delhi could fail to deal with strong hand the evil forces of communalism and fundamentalism. Net result is after returning to Kolkata she had to leave the city for fear of fundamentalist and anti secular forces. It is shame on the part of Union government and the WB government led by Bhudhadev Bhattacharya, a darling of many WB intellectuals.
During my last meeting with Dr. Taslima, Nasrin one thing again and again popped up was her strong desire to return to Dhaka. He requested me to do some thing for her safe return to Bangladesh. I replied to her, "I am a small man and I have very little influence over the policy makers. Even then I tried to carry her message to many corners but alas no one took the matter very seriously saying `this is not the right time to raise the issue. This will give the Islamic fundamentalists a key to feign ant-Taslima campaign. Every one advised me to wait for suitable time after a new elected government takes over the administration>"
In an almost hour long conversation she narrated her present plight. Now virtually she is leading an isolated and solitary life confined in a small hose surrounded by the security people.
She said in a lamented voice, "Sir, you know, I am not allowed to move out freely. No one is allowed to visit me, even my close friends in India and writers."
"Why are they doing it to you. You are neither a terrorist nor a violent personality, rather you are one of the most pleasing and mild personality I have ever crossed over.?"
"They are doing it to me so that out of disgust I decide to leave India. Then the government India would say that she intends to leave India on her own. The government will feel relieved to get rid of me."
"What is the reason, can you think off?", I inquired. Her reply was:
"Amar dharona paschim banga sarkar ebong bharat sarkar musalman vote harabar bhoye moulabadi musalmander toshan korchhe. Tai amake tara, bishe kore CPIM er netara amake kolkata tyage badhya korechhe. Hoito tader paroksha madate Kolkatai etobara demonstartion hoyechhe amar birudhe. Amar sunischit, CPIM shahayata chhara moulabdider eto sahas hoto na amake tarate." ( I think that WB government and Indian government influenced by the CPIM leaders are appeasing the Muslim fundamentalists for the fear of loosing Muslim voters. It is quite possible that with their tacit approval the Muslim fundamentalists could arrange such a big demonstration against my stay in Kolkata. Without CPM support it could never be held forcing me to leave the city, I believe for certain.
"The West Bengal Government forced me leave Kolkata, which I had to very reluctantly", DR, Nasrin concluded with a broken voice. I could listen to her weeping sounds in silence. I felt so distressed and helpless. A girl of my daughrtr's age, so celebrated a person, all on a sudden became a childlike entity?"
In a chocked voice she appealed to me, "sir please does something for me so that I could return to Bangadesh with full honour and dignity and have course, safety."
When I tried to convey her that it is really very difficult for her to return to Bangladesh, unless a new elected liberal government takes over the Bangladesh government. I asked her until such time, we would try to do our best to return her to Kolkata, the second best choice of her living, just a few hundred km from Dhaka. She kept mum for a while and then said in a sobering voice,
"Apnara ja bhalo mone karen, tai karun. Ami katha dichhi, Bhrate ba kolkatai thaka kale emon kichhu korbona ja Paschim bangiya sashakder ba Bharatiya sarkarke bibrata kore."
I told her in assuring voice, "We in Bangladesh do our best for your good. Do not give up hope and courage."
She kept silence a few minute, and then said, "Bhalo thakun, good buy".
"Apnio Bhalo thakun. Hatash hoben na. Jene rakhun apnake koti koti manush bhalobashe. Tader subechha apnake barmer mato raksha korbe. buy.
"Buy', she hang up the phone. I hard the click sound of the cradle. My god, why the world is so cruel, I wondered in despair
In my next episode I will forward the recent thoughts of Dr. Nasrin that she has forwarded to me yesterday.
Mukto-mona readers, please take up your pen and flood the Indian President's PM's and WB Chief Ministers' and CPIM Kolkata office with emails and faxes demanding Taslima's safe return to Kolkata where she really belong next to Bangladesh.
Here is her desire to return to BD found expression in one of recent poem (a few lines translated by me for my non Bengali readers:
.... I will return may be even as a bird..
Wait for me, please, Madhupur, Netrokona
Cross road of Jayadevpur, please wait I will come back.
.. ... .. .. .. ..
Listen, mighty Bramhaputra, I shall return. Shalbana Vihar, Mahasthangar, Sitakunda-pahar – I shall come back.
If I fail to return as a human being, must I return even in the form of a bird?
Prof. Ajoy K. Roy--a reputed scientist and human rights activist from Bangladesh--is the member of Mukto-Mona advisory board. He writes from Dhaka.