Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen has apparently arrived in Europe to seek medical treatment. Before leaving India on Wednesday, she accused the Indian government of forcing her out of the country because of fears of a Muslim backlash. Nasreen’s controversial writings and her stay in India sparked protests by some Muslim radicals last November, forcing the Indian authorities to put her in a safe house.
Writer Nasreen left Bangladesh in 1994
After spending months in an undisclosed location in India, Taslima Nasreen has left the country. She has arrived in Europe but has not revealed the location. Speculations are that she has probably landed in Sweden, as she carries a Swedish passport.
Cecilia Wikstrom is an MP from Sweden's Liberal Party. Speaking with Deutsche Welle’s Bengali service, she said she has been in contact with the writer: “The doctors are providing her all the treatment that she needs for the time being. She is quite well. She feels relieved to leave India.”
Rising Protests over her writings
Taslima Nasreen has been living in exile since 1994. She had to flee Bangladesh after being accused by Muslim groups of blasphemy over her novel called Lajja or Shame. After having spent a few years in exile in Sweden, she moved to India’s eastern city of Kolkata, primarily because of the Bengali language, her mother tongue, which is spoken there.
But last November Nasreen had to leave the city following widespread protests by some Muslim radical groups. They were angry over her writings and were protesting against her stay in India. The situation turned violent in some areas, forcing the authorities to move Nasreen out of the city. She was then put in several undisclosed locations for months.
A Golden Cage
Earlier this year, the Indian government extended her visa. But the extension was short-term and many said the government was taking precautions to avoid any backlash from the country’s 140 million Muslim population.
Before leaving India, Nasreen accused the Indian government of forcing her to leave. She called the safe house, where she was put up, a ‘death chamber’. She said she was even barred from meeting visitors and was not given timely medical treatment when her health deteriorated. Wikstrom explained, Nasreen had been isolated for months: “She considered that as a prison, a very nice golden cage. “
Compromising Freedom of Expression?
Taslima has so far not said what she is planning to do now. She is not even sure, if she could ever go back to Kolkata again, the place closest to her heart. Maria Modig is the deputy chairperson of the Swedish branch of the international writers' association PEN:
“For Taslima what is more important is to use the language that she is working with and to be surrounded by people, who also know her language.”
The Indian government and its communist allies have so far not made any comments on Nasreen’s departure. But the case has sparked widespread criticism among rights activists and writers associations. They say New Delhi compromised on the freedom of expression to expand its vote bank among the Muslim population