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Updated: August 15, 2013 11:02 IST
outside insights

It feels, speaks, smells like home

Taslima Nasreen
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When I first visited India in the late ‘80s, I did not for an instant think I was in another country. I felt I belonged here and that it was, in some fundamental way, inseparable from the land I called my own. The reason for this was not my Hindu forebear. The reason was not that one of India’s many cultures is my own or that I speak one of her many languages or the fact that I look Indian. It is because the values and traditions that define India are embedded deeply within me. These values and traditions are a manifestation of the history of the subcontinent; I have been enriched and enlivened by it. I am also a victim of its poverty, colonial legacy, communalism, violence, bloodshed, partition, migrations, exodus, riots, wars and even theories of nationhood. I have been hardened further by my life and experiences in a poverty- and famine-stricken, ill-governed country called Bangladesh.

The intolerance, fanaticism and bigotry of Islamist fundamentalists forced me to leave Bangladesh. I was forced to go into exile; the doors of my own country slammed shut on my face for good. Since then I have sought refuge in India. When I was finally allowed entry, again, not for an instant did I feel out of place. Even after spending decades in Europe, it never felt like home. However, I felt a deep connection with India; I felt I knew the people; I had grown up somewhere very similar, almost indistinguishable. I felt the need to do something for this country and its people. There was a burning desire within me to see that women become educated and independent, that they stand up for, and demand their rights and freedom. I wanted my writing to invigorate and contribute in some way to the empowerment of these women who had always been oppressed and suppressed. Moreover, I wanted to do everything possible to make people aware of the need forsecular education to become enlightened, tolerant, rational, and peace loving.

Not many people understand why I, as a European citizen and a permanent resident of the U.S., am so eager to live in India! I know it is not easy to live here; my book was banned in this country, five fatwas were issued against me, prices were set on my head, religious fanatics physically assaulted me. I was bundled out of West Bengal, I was thrown out of Rajasthan, I was put under confinement in a “safe house” in Delhi, I was forced to leave the country — but I did not give up. I came back again and again to live in the land that abandoned me and humiliated me.

I asked why the world’s largest democracy, a secular state, could not shelter a person whose entire life has been spent for the cause of secular humanism, a person without a country to call her own, someone who regarded India as her home. I have been struggling to settle in my beloved country; it has now become a challenge. I want India to prove that a secular state can honour a secular writer. I want India to honour the nation’s tradition of great hospitality and its democratic principle.

India is a land of plurality, with people from different religions, ethnicities, languages and cultures coexisting together. I want her neighbouring countries to learn from India how to secularise the state and how not to violate anyone’s right to freedom of expression. I believe that India, unlike Bangladesh, will triumph over all kinds of fundamentalism. The love and respect I get from Indians makes me feel this is my true home. I still believe that for a sincere, honest, secular writer in the subcontinent, India is the safest refuge.


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Well, living in these times is even tough for Indians themselves as any
other person takes offence or dig at someone or something. As an
Indian, I am appalled at the way democratic and secularist rights are
abused and ignored. Many Indians like me would love to see you and
others take refuge and live peacefully in India.

And the reason you feel at home in India is very obvious...we share the
same roots :-)

from:  Shridevi
Posted on: Aug 15, 2013 at 17:12 IST

Taslima Nasreen's life is a testimony to the fragility and ferocity of being a woman in this country. Fragile because the fundamentalists are out to go for the jugular and ferocious because the guts and gumption with which she has stood for humanism and plurality and all the values she cherishes.
Such is the power and lure of vote bank politics that we dare not call a spade and spade and take sides.
Every party wants to be politically correct and humanism and human values are lost in this quagmire called politics.
Taslima will always live in the hearts and minds of her readers and followers through her fearless writings. I salute you and your courage.

Posted on: Aug 15, 2013 at 15:11 IST

At the end, Truth prevails. One day will come when people like you who sees humanity first before religions, will have respect and dignity and the love you deserve for your courage to speak up for the oppressed ones.

from:  Kshitiz
Posted on: Aug 15, 2013 at 10:20 IST

Thank you for writing, Taslima. It is clearly heart- felt. The Hindu has taken the opportunity of national independence day to invite other beautiful writers from neighbouring countries to write a piece. It has been a joy to read them all. You are not only a wonderful writer but also a good human being who is concerned about lifting the masses by promoting education and clear and rational thinking. India, indeed much of the world, can use a person with your
commitment to secularism and humanity. I can only hope that the government of India on this historic day will remember why India sought freedom and the ideals that it sought to live by and sanction whatever you need to work and live in India.

from:  Virendra Gupta
Posted on: Aug 15, 2013 at 04:52 IST

Taslima you are welcome to live in Vadodara in
Gujarat - you can use my flat if you wish & we
shall look after you - this is a promise from
a Gujarati - we know how to take care of our

from:  Navin Joshi
Posted on: Aug 15, 2013 at 04:09 IST
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