Taslima Nasreen Attacked

09 Aug

I’ve never heard of the Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM), a political party working out of Hyderabad, but I can see they’re obviously a genius bunch. After all, it takes mucho grey cells to realize that nothing attracts more sympathy to your cause than throwing odd bits of furniture and anything else you can get your hands on at a lone woman in front of TV cameras.

Apparently the fun and games began when Taslima Nasreen, Bangladeshi author who wrote the infamous Lajja (banned in her country as well as mine for fear of precisely the kind of crackpots that attacked her in Hyderabad), arrived in the city to release the Telugu version of her new novel, Shodh.

Ever heard of it? I certainly hadn’t. But I know all about it now and guess what? I’ll probably buy a copy to see what the fuss is all about.

Anyhoo, so there she was, at the Hyderabad Press Club, sitting on the dias with television cameras trained on her, when 30 “middle aged men” began to raise slogans against her. Shortly thereafter, things turned violent and they began throwing everything they could get their hands on, threatening her not only with bodily harm but death as well.

From NDTVHmm, so let’s tot up all that the MIM, specifically three of its MLAs (yes, yes, that’s Member of the Legislative Assembly) along with a couple of dozen fellow “activists”, has achieved:

  • Given loads of publicity to Nasreen’s new book
  • Painted her as a victim and hence a figure for sympathy
  • Played up to the worst ever stereotype of Muslims with MLA Akhtar Khan (one of the men who took part in the incident) saying things like: “She has written books against our government, Islam…I am a Muslim first and then an MLA. My party is with me in this mission.

Well done, MIM, well done! What a credit you are to your cause, your religion, your political office! I must try this novel method of winning hearts and minds the next time I’m campaigning for something. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t have thought of throwing flower pots at someone but what do I know? I‘m not in public service. I didn’t swear any oaths or something to uphold the tenets of my office or anything. Especially not in the name of God. No sir!

All sarcasm aside, Nasreen, of course, is not the first writer to be faced with this kind of persecution; she’s merely the latest in a long line. Nor is this kind of behavior the sole prerogative of Indians or even Muslim Indians: Nasreen was forced to leave Bangladesh seeking political asylum because of her book and the MIM’s Kumbh ke mele mein bichde hue bhai (long lost brothers), the very intelligent Sambhaji Brigade, has done Hindu and Maratha pride wonders, for example.

What bothers me in this connection, though, is this decision of the Supreme Court, carried out in May:

“It is true that forfeiture of a newspaper or book or a document is a serious encroachment on the right of a citizen, but if forfeiture is called for in the public interest it must without a doubt have pre-eminence over any individual interest,” a Bench of Justices B P Singh and H S Bedi observed while upholding the Karnataka government’s decision to ban a vernacular novel.

Although I’ve always defended the right to free speech, I understand that there are some limits that are desirable: hate speech, inciting violence, slander… But what the above decision (pertaining to a Kannada book I have not read called Dharmakaarana by PV Narayana) does, as far as I can make out, is pander to extremists. [If anyone has read the book and supports the decision, I’d be glad to hear from them.]

I must admit there is a personal angle to this issue: as a writer I’m nowhere near as controversial as Nasreen, but as a woman writer I’ve been on the receiving end of targeted attacks that had little or nothing to do with my writing and a lot more to do with my gender and the “message” read into my words by a group of readers. I’ve also been attacked as a “Tamil”, “Malayali”, “NRI”, “Urbanite” i.e. someone who doesn’t belong to the “real India”, “Muslim”, “blot on Hinduism”, “Commie”, “neo-liberal”, “neo-con”, and a bunch of other things besides depending upon the subject matter of a given post.

I guess I must have MPD and not even know it.

But see, what that SC ruling says, as I see it, is that tomorrow any one of the above crackpots can band together and have my opinions censored irrespective of actual intent or truth by threatening violence. All they have to do is convince the government that they mean business. So my rights as a citizen can be held hostage by any Neanderthal criminal with an effigy.

Who wants to place bets that Shodh is going to go the way of Lajja? Buy your copies now, folks.

Update: Alternate version at Desicritics


Posted by on August 9, 2007 in Books, News, Newsmakers, Politics


23 responses to “Taslima Nasreen Attacked

  1. OrangeJammies

    August 9, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    i’m buying, i’m buying! thanks for keeping us in the loop! the MIM should be paying you for this! 😉

  2. Aspi

    August 9, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Ha ha, quite a collection of labels you’ve accumulated. This reminds of an old Mad Magazine satire of Flash Gordon – tremendous social commentary if you ask me. In that piece, Flash Gordon is being attacked by all sorts of creatures – lizard men, crocodile men, giant men, ant men. “Oh no” he says after a while “its the worst of them all – men men”

  3. Kokonad

    August 9, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    @Aspi – “men men” – LOL

    @Amrita – That’s quite a volley of adjectives, heh heh. 🙂 Btw, I had read Lajja a few years back and I was seriously disturbed for a while – as to what all is being done in the name of religion. Isn’t the belief in God supposed to give peace of mind and sense of righteousness?
    It’s not news if I say that she actually drew a very grim picture – and took a very bold step in doing it too. My parents were in Baroda during the Gujarat riots while I was in Chennai – and the extreme fear of something happening to them in the midst of all the riots kept me nervous and jittery.

  4. Patrix

    August 9, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Sadly the ‘public interest’ that the SC cites can be interpreted broadly and unfortunately empowers such incidents.

  5. Desigirl

    August 10, 2007 at 3:16 am

    Yeah I saw this on the news last night but was nonethewiser. Obv, I was elsewhere when the actual news was read out but was front-row-centre for the furniture chucking show that happened post the announcement.
    Now I twig.
    Lend me your copy of the book once you’re done. Let us sing paeans in praise of this brave lady.

  6. apu

    August 10, 2007 at 3:20 am

    basically, no one should be offended. and people take offence at everything. ergo, nobody can be allowed to do anything at all that is even a teensy-weensy bit different to what these people have crammed up in their teensy-weensy minds.

  7. Anon

    August 10, 2007 at 3:42 am

    itna bhi dukhi mat ho jaiye….

  8. Gagan

    August 10, 2007 at 3:47 am

    Heard a story about the resistance that Neils Bohr encountered from establishment scientists when he was trying to relate the weirdness and truth of quantum mechanics. Someone asked how his theories would come to be accepted with such opposition. He said ” funeral by funeral” ……may have to wait these guys out….. I agree very few good reasons for restriction of free speech…..libellous slander is all I can think of.

    keep on writing on whatever you like and saying whatever you want. You have a lot of people on your side. labels are passe anyway. Did’nt anyone tell that to these people. 🙂

  9. bvn

    August 10, 2007 at 5:41 am

    MIM is a potent force in hyderabad, send ovaisi(their leader) into parliament every election. More than being any kinda islamists, they are goons with a major presence in the old city. with the fabric of the city changing over the years (long time since riots in the old city), MIM needs to keep its flock together – Taslima, Rushdie or some other guy. We need to understand their problems too 🙂

    and I’m just happy that the VHP,RSS are finally looking at paintings and Good art…and the MIMs are as Quran says…in the name of the most merciful “READING” 🙂

  10. rAm

    August 10, 2007 at 7:15 am

    I don’t have to say anything about this. I know I will be damned Whether I say something or I don’t say something. It ain’t matter that I said or i did not say anything about something. The simple act that I have thought about it is sufficient for these people to act upon.

    Ok enough of that, but why do I sense that I will see in mylifetime the world run by “Big Brother”, and we all will live by the words:

    “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” — 1984.

    That is the future.And you never know you (Amrita) and me and all those who have commented, read, or thought of reading this blog are on the list!!

    I want to save my self.!! so I bow to Big Brother
    “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” — Shameless mee!!

  11. maliha11

    August 10, 2007 at 8:36 am

    this is a very good way to promote a book … way to go

  12. rAm

    August 10, 2007 at 9:57 am


    I don’t think i need to promote a book as famous as 1984!!!.. (but i do agreee.. i can use such stuff to promote somethign else.. ;)).

  13. zeeshan

    August 10, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    MIM MLAs did the right thing to attack on taslima nasreen. being a Muslim she told against Islam.
    And the women who doesn’t have mind are going against MIM. they are right that men shouldn’t lift the hand on hand on women but she is telling against islam and she is enemy of Islam.

  14. zeeshan

    August 10, 2007 at 12:40 pm


  15. zeeshan

    August 10, 2007 at 12:40 pm


  16. Amrita

    August 10, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Hey people 🙂 I hope you’re keeping up with the times because more hilarity is leaking out by the minute including ANOTHER bunch of idiots who’re accusing the MIM of fouling up their grand plan of assassination by jumping the gun.

    OJ – you’re welcome, you’re welcome! And I don’t think they can afford me 😉

    Aspi – LOL! Well these guys WISH they were “men men”.

    Koke – I wonder how many of us have lived through riots or have relatives who’ve lived through riots? And how many of us are now used to them? God is just a convenient excuse these days.

    Patrix – Right you are! if I hear “public interest” and “religious sentiment” one more time I’m going to drop dead from aggravation!

    DG – Amen! I hope you get the Hindu in your house because there was a gem of a pic in its report. I took it for DC. 😀 The guy on the extreme right is hilarious!

  17. Amrita

    August 10, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Apu – what’s insane is that those same people think that’s the meaning of diversity!

    Anon – lol! Dukhi nahin hoon, lekin bewakoofon se pareshan zaroor hoon!

    Gagan – omigod! it’s so difficult not to say that out loud to some people’s faces! Of course, Neils Bohr said it much more nicely than I would 😀

    BVN – thanks for that insight! And 😀 @ at the fundoo crack!

    rAm – 😦 inch by slow inch, huh?
    (Oh, and I think Maliha’s talking about something different)

    Maliha – hey, their publicity push worked for me!

    Zeeshan – the MIM MLAs also took an oath on the name of God to uphold the law and their office: so who is the greater blasphemer? Taslima who criticized the interpretations of the Koran or the MLAs who swore a false oath on the Koran?

  18. Bharat

    August 10, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Muhamedism is a barbaric cult, founded by a barbarous Arab. What else we civilised world can expect from these blood-suking jihadi terrorists? The whole world knows these terrorists can kill anybody and suck their bloods.

    They are shameless creatures, one lone woman was attacked by gangs of jihadi terrorists. And they are proud of it. This is their Islam, the religion of peace (actually PISS).

    Its time, these jihadis must be banned in our country. We must not allow these jihadis to destablise our nation. They need to be isolated and then dumped.

  19. Amrita

    August 11, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Dude, did you just advocate genocide as a sensible response or are you talking about terrorists specifically? Coz terrorism already carries a death penalty.

%d bloggers like this: