[Reader-list] The Attack on Taslima Nasrin in Hyderabad

ARNAB CHATTERJEE apnawritings at yahoo.co.in
Sun Aug 12 15:41:14 IST 2007

Dear Shuddhabrata,

I’m not ashamed to say that  I am an avid reader of 
your- i.e., Shuddhabrata Sengupta’s writings as the
works of Jeebesh Bagchi ( recently in the Journal of
the Moving Image) or that of Lawrence Liang ( the
little that I’ve read )and some works and words of
Inder Salim and Vedabati Jogi simply fascinate me. And
love at times compells to engage--more and more-- like
this one.
                  I have a public question for
you--Shuddha. The remarkably clear instances of
persecution or censorship  no doubt merit discussion
and an activist anthropology of sorts may be strongly
required to comment on them but consider for instance
the paradigm called ‘editing’ compulsory in newspaper
circles and other  institutionalised  relatas. Besides
correcting linguistic and open stylistic errors (
which perhaps everybody will accept) there is first
the step of choosing articles and secondly if chosen
–the editing of content. Both events make edifying and
horrifying stories—but they are rarely available.
Could you comment on this archival- lack ? And its
logistics? Remember Taslima was twice awarded the
Ananda puraskar; does it signify anything? People
don’t discuss Malay Roy choudhury. And even Malay is a
bad example; Allen Gisnberg at a function celebrating
25 years of Howl was asked his favourite author: he
named a punk novelist and said, “ but he doesn’t get

               I don’t want to elaborate on this here
but cryptically summarise by asking that could editing
be seen as  also a technology of censorship and
persecution passed under the table? Isn’t tabloid
criticism based on the sacrifice of the best
arguments? How could it be made accountable? Or take
the ready example  and answer why SARAI needs to be an
open public forum rather than a closed one. Here is a
hint: if others are  closed ones, then what kind of
freedom do they express? (Let the readers not  mistake
this fact and reiterate the catechism that it is
technically not possible to accommodate all and
everything etc.)   --Because, then the agency where
the ‘Freedom of expression’ is articulated, would
itself be in doubt. That mediation itself is mediated
is poisonous knowledge.
           Now this apparently is a simple, known
statement, but –I’ll tell you after a while—how it is
    Simply put, I want Shuddha and all to comment,
discuss and open the old force field of persecution
and the art of writing again to  debate it,- but with
a difference: we move away from visible forms of
coercion and explore apparently non-coercive,
non-violent ( nearly necessary) forms of mediation and
translation. (are they just impossible to handle?).
   A caution here:  In this I don’t want to down play
the Taslima event and Shuddha’s comments on it but  I
find myself attracted to Malay Roy Choudhury or
Subimal Mishra rather than Taslima. The latter pass
away as not being persecuted at all; why? how?
    This last example is a bit gross and bypasses the
finer arguments I was hinting at but nevertheless it
puts things in a straight light and offers a
beginner’s example. But no cause for remorse : there
are hundred narratives –some of them awesome—to be
recounted here. But at first I expect Shuddha to clear
the cloud here.

Yrs in discourse and defeat

--- Shuddhabrata Sengupta <shuddha at sarai.net> wrote:

> Dear All (apologies for cross posting on Kafila.org
> and the Sarai Reader 
> List)
> The recent attack on Taslima Nasreen has again shown
> how fragile the 
> freedom of expression is in India today. It breaks
> whenever a 
> sentimental reader or viewer has their 'sentiments
> challenged'. Are all 
> these worthy gentlemen who go about obstructing
> screenings and readings 
> suffering from some early childhood trauma that
> makes it difficult for 
> them to countenance growing up and acquiring the
> ability to listen to 
> contrary point of view? How long are we to be held
> hostage to their 
> infantile suffering?
> What is worse is the fact that the people who
> attacked her, and have 
> made public threats to kill her - activists and
> elected representatives 
> belonging to MIM, a leftover of the Nizam's hated
> Razakars, were 
> arrested and then let off on bail. So, the message
> that the state sends 
> out to these goons is - "threaten to kill, be taken
> to a police station 
> to have a cup of tea, have your picture taken, be
> splashed in the media, 
> go home and make some more threats"
> see -
> In fact, according to a report in the Indian Express
> today, it is Ms. 
> Nasreen who is now being booked under section 153 -
> the same section of 
> the penal code that was earlier used to detain the
> unfortunate art 
> student in Baroda who had offended 'Hindu and
> Christian sentiments'. So 
> as far as the Police in the state of Andhra Pradesh
> is concerned, person 
> who makes a public threat to kill a writer - a
> prominent politician is 
> innocent, and the writer herself, who has never
> threatened to kill 
> anyone, nor has asked others to kill people is
> guilty of inciting 
> hatred. Both are to be treated equally. There can be
> no greater travesty 
> of justice than this incident, and it once again
> demonstrates how 
> willing state power in India is to dance in tandem
> with bigots. It 
> happens in BJP ruled Gujarat, it happens in Congress
> ruled Andhra 
> Pradesh. It happens (see below)in Left Front ruled
> West Bengal.
> Once again this demonstrates that bigotry and
> cussedness is not the 
> monopoly of the self appointed representatives of
> any one community or 
> political tendency. If the self appointed
> representatives of the 
> Kashmiri Pandit community and their allies pour
> venom on Sanjay Kak on 
> this list and elsewhere, they are matched in their
> ardour by the 
> viciousness of those who have appointed themselves
> the guardians of 
> Islam in Hyderabad, and the protectors of Hindu and
> Christian dignity in 
> Baroda. And lest we forget, (we do have short
> memories) let us remember 
> that the last time Tasleema Nasrin was vilified and
> hounded and her 
> publication banned in an Indian state, it just
> happenned to be in West 
> Bengal, where she has her largest readership, and
> this happenned because 
> the secular progressive left front regime, led by
> the Contractors Party 
> of India (Monopolist) deemed her a threat to the
> sanitized cultural 
> landscape that they so vigorously uphold and
> maintain in that state.
> The CPI(M)'s party organ 'People's Democracy' found
> it necessary to 
> publish the official 'party line' on the ban in its
> issue dated November 
> 7, 2003 (Vol XXVII, No 49). It said (apologies for
> this lengthy quotation)
> "THE Bengal Left Front government has decided to ban
> Bangladeshi author 
> Taslima Nasreen’s latest book, Dwikhandita
> (‘Split in Two’) because it 
> was feared that the book would incite communal
> violence.  At no point of 
> time has the book been proscribed on political or
> literary grounds.
> In a government notification issued on November 28,
> the state LF 
> government has formally invoked the ban under
> section 95 of the code of 
> Criminal Procedure, read with Act 153 of the Indian
> Penal Code (where it 
> is considered a criminal and punishable act to
> create enmity, rivalry, 
> and hatred amongst religious communities.
> State secretary of the CPI (M), Anil Biswas said
> that there was 
> apprehension expressed widely that the book would
> spark off communal 
> tension, and that very many experts in the field
> supported this view. 
> The LF government has banned the book for the sake
> of the upkeep of 
> democracy in Bengal. Several newspapers, too, have
> expressed similar 
> feelings. Biswas pointed out that “from the time
> the Left Front has been 
> office in Bengal not a single book or publication
> has been proscribed on 
> political grounds.” However, said Biswas, it was a
> different matter 
> altogether if a publication or a book incited
> terrorism and communalism.
> Chief minister of Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
> whose department 
> issued the notification banning the book, said that
> he had himself read 
> the book “several times over.” that he has
> “persuaded at least 25 noted 
> specialists to go through the book critically” and
> that they have 
> recommended the book to be not fit for circulation
> among the reading 
> public.  In particular, the pages 49-50 of the book
> contain very 
> derogatory and provocative references that go
> against the grain of the 
> tenets of Islam and of Islamic beliefs.
>   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 openly out against the book
> and have supported 
> the decision by the state LF government to get the
> book banned.
> Pradesh Congress leader Somen Mitra who has called
> Taslima Nasreen a 
> blot on the world of women, has described the book
> as having no 
> difference with a piece of pornography and has said
> that nobody ought to 
> assume rights to hurt the sentiments of a religious
> community.
> The book which forms a part of Nasreen’s
> multi-volume autobiography has 
> been charged by the reading public of Kolkata and
> Bengal with obscenity 
> and has come under fire for its maligning and
> falsified personal 
> references to the lives of several noted scholars of
> Bengal and 
> Bangladesh as well.
> However, the book, as Anil Biswas made clear while
> speaking to the media 
> in Kolkata recently, was banned because of the fact
> that portions of the 
> book would cause religious disharmony to break out,
> with the religious 
> fundamentalists utilising the book to fan the flame
> of communal fire.
> True to form, the BJP chief Tathagata Roy has
> supported Taslima 
> Nasreen’s derogatory references to Islam and has
> opposed the 
> proscription of the book.  Mamata Banerjee has
> chosen to hold her 
> silence, as she is wont to do of late on very many
> other matters as well."
> It appears that if there is one thing that religious
> fundamentalists, 
> communal, nationalist, secular and leftist
> politicians agree on is the 
> necessity to curb the freedom of expression in Inda.
> There is only one possible ethical response to this
> pathetic display of 
> arrogance by the self appointed representatives of
> Hindu, Muslim, 
> Christian and Communist sentiment, and that is to
> ensure the widest 
> possible circulation of these materials in the
> public domain. It is to 
> organize as many screenings as possible of a film
> like 'Jashn-e-Azaadi' 
> (or any other film that is attacked in a similar
> fashion) and to hold 
> public readings and distributions of the books of
> someone like Taslima 
> Nasreen.
> In 'Homeless Everywhere:Writing in Exile' an essay
> by Taslima Nasreen 
> that had been first published in English in Sarai
> Reader 04: Turbuluence
> She wrote -
> "Just like in West Bengal today, my books have been
> banned earlier in 
> Bangladesh on the excuse that they may incite riots.
> The communal 
> tension raging through South Asia is not caused by
> my books but by other 
> reasons. The torture of Bangladesh’s minorities,
> the killing of Muslims 
> in Gujarat, the oppression of Biharis in Assam, the
> attacks against
> Christians, and the Shia-Sunni conflicts in Pakistan
> have all occurred 
> without any contribution from me. Even if I am an
> insignificant writer, 
> I write for humanity, I write with all my heart that
> every human being 
> is equal, and there must be no discrimination on the
> basis of gender, 
> colour, or religion. Everyone has the right to live.
> Riots don’t break 
> out because of what I write. But I am the one who is
> punished for what I 
> write. Fires rage in my home. I am the one who has
> to suffer exile. I am 
> the one who is homeless everywhere."
> If we want to ensure that writers, filmmakers and
> artists are not 
> 'homeless everywhere' then we have to ensure that
> they receive the 
> hospitality that enables the conditions that allow
> their work, thought 
> and expression to continue to have a public life.
> This means making sure 
> that their work lives and continues to breathe in
> society, by any means 
> necessary.
> For those who are interested, and can read Bangla,
> some of Taslima 
> Nasrin's work is available in the form of
> downloadable pdfs from 
> www.talimanasrin.com. When the venerable Buddhadev
> Bhattacharya decided, 
> after consulting twenty five eminent intellectuals
> to ban her book, I 
> decided to download the said book, make twenty six
> photocopies of the 
> entire book bind them and distribute them free.
> That is one method to deal with censorship (formal
> or informal) I am 
> sure that there are other, more creative methods out
> there as well. I 
> would welcome practical suggestions from those in
> the community of the 
> people who are reading this post
> about how these attacks on the freedom of expression
> may be confronted 
> and made irrelevant. Let us try and make some time
> for peaceful film 
> watching and reading.
> best
> Shuddha
> _________________________________________
> reader-list: an open discussion list on media and
> the city.
> Critiques & Collaborations
> To subscribe: send an email to
> reader-list-request at sarai.net with subscribe in the
> subject header.
> To unsubscribe:
> https://mail.sarai.net/mailman/listinfo/reader-list 
> List archive:

      Get the freedom to save as many mails as you wish. To know how, go to http://help.yahoo.com/l/in/yahoo/mail/yahoomail/tools/tools-08.html

More information about the reader-list mailing list