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'It's worth upholding ideals that are good for mankind' (Interview with Taslima Nasreen)

'It's worth upholding ideals that are good for mankind' (Interview with Taslima Nasreen)

Author: Susmita Mukherjee
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 9, 2009
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/opinion/edit-page/QA-Its-worth-upholding-ideals-that-are-good-for-mankind/articleshow/4987183.cms

The Indian government recently extended the residentship of controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen. She spoke to Susmita Mukherjee about her 15-year-long exile and search for a home:

Q.: Your residentship in India has been extended. Are you happy?
A.: I was granted residentship five years ago. Every six months it gets renewed. It is obvious that a Bengali would be happier living in Bengal. My friends from Bengal visit me in the capital.

Q.: The last time you were in Delhi, you had to live as if you were under house arrest. Is it better now?
A.: I am grateful to Madanjeet Singh, freedom fighter and a secular humanist, who made my return to India possible. After the famous or infamous 'safe house' episode, now life is more relaxing as there are few restrictions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said, "We recognise Taslima Nasreen's rights to remain in a country of her choice... She shall also have the option to choose the city". I hope the promise is kept.

Q.: You had pinned hopes on Sheikh Hasina helping you to return home. That did not happen. Have you at any time thought that you ought to have taken a less controversial path?
A.: I tried my best to go back to my motherland. India has been my one and only refuge. I hope i can continue to live in India. If India refuses me, i will be dead. I have nowhere to go, no place to call my own. The West is not a place where i belong.

I didn't create any controversy, people did. A healthy debate is always welcome. It makes a society more democratic, liberal and civilised. I am still struggling to believe that if my ideas are not in consonance with those of extremists, i have to lose my home. I hope i'll be able to see the right to freedom of expression respected in my lifetime. It's integral to democracy. Whatever i wrote was done to create consciousness.

I am not anti-Muslim. I am pro-human. I will always be with the oppressed whether they are the Hindus in Bangladesh, Muslims in Palestine, Gujarat, Jews or Christians in Pakistan. I think it's worth upholding ideals that are good for mankind.

Q.: As a writer do you think it is your responsibility not to hurt the sentiments of people?
A.: I never intended to hurt sentiments. I write for women's rights. Misogynists abhor feminists everywhere. The reaction of fanatics also hurts my sentiments. I believe in my right to express my ideas, as well as the rights of those who oppose me.

In a civilised society there should be room for debate and dialogue. But you cannot have people crying for your head, attacking you physically. I am willing to be enlightened by my critics.

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