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Freedom of expression in World's largest democracy - INDIA

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    Freedom of expression in World's largest democracy - INDIA

    5th June 1998 Comment by Taslima Nasrin

    From: Taslima Nasrin, c/o Warren Allen Smith, 31 Jane Street (10-D),

    NewYork, NY 10014 (212) 366-6481

    To: Op-Ed Page Editor,The New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, NewYork, NY 10036

    Newspapers and journals in the United States often refer to India as being "the largest democracy in the world. I, for one, am not favorably impressed by its so-called "democracy."

    My native country of Bangladesh, which once was a part of India, is also called a democracy. The government of that nation is controlled by religious fundamentalists. In 1993 a fatwa was issued against me and a monetary reward offered to anyone who would kill me. Several thousand zealots marched through Dhaka demanding my death. My 1992 novel,

    "Shame," about the destroying in India of an ancient mosque in Ayodhya, and my several volumes of poetry were burned. I was ordered to be hanged.

    As a result I was forced to hide in my own country until, with the help of some western governments, I was able to flee and seek asylum in Sweden where I now reside, thanks to its humanistic leaders.

    Although Bangladesh is proud to call itself a democracy and accepted most of the clauses of the U. N. Human Rights Convention, its rulers still refuse to cancel the fatwa that calls for my execution. My "crime" is not that as a physician or as a poet or as a novelist I have killed anyone. My crime is that my country's "democracy" objects to the outlook which is shown in my writing. I have views which are different from that of the majority. My views, admittedly, are seen as being blasphemous in their eyes. Freedom of expression, in short, is a term totally unknown to this "democratic" Muslim country.

    When I asked "the world's largest democracy" to allow me entry, I was turned down. In fact, my application for a visa has been refused more than seven times by India's "democratic" government. The reason, I have been informed unofficially, is that the government does not want to lose votes of the Muslim minority community in the next elections.

    Put yourself in my position. I have been forced to leave my native country, a democracy, because I speak openly about what I think is wrong.

    Meanwhile, I am desperate to see my mother who has just been diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and liver metastasis. The
    religious-fundamentalist "democracy" of Bangladesh will not allow me to return to be with her at the end. Were I to attempt a return now, my mother, my family, and my friends could well suffer the spectacle of seeing me tried once again, found guilty once again, and hanged by the neck in the public square before my thirty-sixth birthday.

    Some matters are more cruel than A-bomb tests, particularly when "democracies" are involved.

    Dr. Nasrin, the Bangladeshi poet-novelist-gynecologist who has taken refuge in Sweden, currently is visiting in Manhattan.

    Dear Sarwar,

    It is a good topic to discuss, but I think it should be discussed in politics, as "freedom of expression" is purely a political issue. I also read that op-ed essay, it is horrible what Bangladesh has done to Dr. Nasrin for expressing herself literally. However, that religious decree in no way represents the beliefs of masses of Bangladeshis, who could care less whether or not Dr. Nasrin's writings are blasphemous. Jamait-e-Islami in Bangladesh only has support in metropolitan and urban areas. In rural country, people tend to be less political and more task oriented. They worry more about the next monsoon than Dr. Nasrin's writings. Not to say, that rural people have greater concerns about civil liberties than the urban folks, as you may know what controversy the cell phone has caused in rural Bangladesh. With time things will change. Now move it to Politics, and let's have a healthy debate there on "freedom of expression".

    Stay well.


      Actually, I would like to discuss it in
      Politics forum. But I am not sure whether this issue is related to Pakistan. Moderator
      may close the thread as it is related to India and not Pakistan.

      As for the topic, I feel as a world's largest democracy India should give visa to Taslima Nasreen. After all it gave visa to Indian author Salman Rushdie. Taslima should be free to visit India like Salman Rushdie.


        Dear Sarwar,

        Freedom of expression is neither an Indian nor Pakistani, but a universal issue, and the case of Dr Nasrin is just an example. I don't think Moderator will have any objection to that. If s/he does, it means that there is no freedom of expression in GuppShup.

        I totally agree with you that India should grant Dr. Nasrin a visa.

        Hey listen, if you think that the Moderator will object because it is not a Pakistani issue, why dont you pose a question: Should Pakistan allow Dr. Nasrin to visit there? How about that..


          Thanks NYAhmedi

          The moderator won't object.
          Please move it there.