Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Indian Islamists takes “Shodh” (Getting Even) with controversial writer Taslima Nasrin

Soon after radical Muslim public representatives barged into a book launching function of feminist writer Taslima Nasrin and attacked her at Hyderabad, the media, civil society, human rights, women’s groups and scores of elected leaders have decried the incident as a "national shame" and a threat on world’s largest democratic and secular nation India.

“I've never come face to face with death like this,” said visibly shaken feminist writer Taslima Nasrin.

"For half an hour death stared at me from close as I locked myself in a room and those men tried to break in and kill me," a traumatised Taslima Nasrin said after a day after the controversial Bangladeshi feminist author was attacked in Hyderabad, India, during a book release Shodh.

"I was attacked earlier too but it was never like (Thursday’s) attack. There was no police for help because the organisers had not foreseen anything of this kind. If I have returned alive to Kolkata it is because of media persons who fought those men for half an hour and got injured to save me," Nasrin told India Asian News Service after the incident at the Hyderabad Press Club on August 9.

A visibly shaken Nasrin returned Kolkata from Hyderabad where she had gone to release a Telugu translation of her novel “Shodh” (Getting Even).

Taslima is living in exile for the last twelve years after death threats forced her to flee Bangladesh. She is an outspoken champion of equal rights for Muslim women and a fearless fighter against religious influence in society and family.

Taslima has faced numerous death threats from Islamic radicals. Recently, in March 2007, an Indian Muslim group offered a bounty of 500,000 rupees for her beheading.

In the tone of death threat, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (MIM) warned it will not allow the 45 year old writer Taslima Nasrin to return alive if she dared to revisit Hyderabad while the Majlis Bachao Tehreek claimed that their plan to kill her was foiled by the MIM attack.

Radical Muslims led by three State Legislative Council members (MLAs), raised slogans against Taslima and flung bouquets and chairs at her and others attending the modest function in Hyderabad press club.

MIM leader Akhtar Khan, an MLA, described her as "enemy of Islam” and “we will not tolerate talking against Islam. She has written books against Islam."
Bewildered Taslima was rescued by the police and journalists present at the Hyderabad press club and was escorted to the airport.

After the unsavoury incident the police detained three MIM legislators for their bid to attack the feminist writer.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy and Home Minister K. Jana Reddy, who restricted themselves to a cursory condemnation of the attack on the writer, chose not to react to these open threats obviously because of political reasons. Police also claimed that they had not come across the statements.

Meanwhile Hyderabad City Police have booked a case against controversial Bangladesh writer Taslima Nasrin for hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims. The police have also sought the clearance from a court to file a case against Majlis-e-Ittehaadul Muslimeen floor leader in Assembly Akbaruddin Owaisi for allegedly holding out threats to Taslima Nasrin if she visits Hyderabad again.

The police had booked a case against MIM MLAs and other activists under sections rioting with deadly weapons, voluntarily causing hurt, mischief causing damage to property, trespass after preparation for hurt, assault and wrongful restraint, and criminal intimidation of Indian Penal Code.

On the same day, MIM floor leader Akbaruddin Owaisi had filed a complaint against Taslima Nasrin, alleging that she had hurt the sentiments of Muslim community with her writings and speeches against Islam, including Holy Prophet Mohammed.

Akbaruddin Owaisi, who is in the eye of a storm after the TV news channels claimed that he held out threats to kill or behead Taslima Nasrin if she came to Hyderabad again, "I never said that we will kill her or behead her. This is all distortion. What I said is that there is a 'fatwa' against her. It is the responsibility of Muslims to abide by the fatwa and being a Muslim I will also abide by the fatwa."

"We are very proud of our MLAs and activists who assaulted her," said MIM leader and MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi. "We will implement the fatwa issued against Taslima if she comes to the city again." The MIM leader felt it was not wrong to make such a threat though he was an MLA who took oath on the Constitution. "First of all I am a Muslim," he said. "So I have to vent my anger against a person who insults Islam. Then only I can think of my responsibility as an MLA. As we are protecting the sanctity of Islam, we are not at fault." Meanwhile, Home Minister K. Jana Reddy said the government would review the sections under which the cases were booked against the MIM MLAs if necessary.

Owaisi, for instance, recalled that Hindu fundamentalists had attacked M.F. Hussain alleging that he had insulted Goddess Saraswati through his paintings. "We also condemned him," he reminded.

When asked if he was equating himself with the mob that attacked M.F. Hussain, he avoided a direct answer. "Instead of filing cases against us, police should book case against the organisers for allowing Taslima to make provocative speeches against Islam," he said. MIM president Salahuddin Owaisi also asked the Centre not to give asylum to the writer, who has been disowned by her homeland Bangladesh.

At the same time, the Majlis Bachao Tehreek made an even more alarming claim that they had been planning to kill Taslima. "We were all set to kill her," said Majidullah Khan Farhat, official spokesman of the party. "The MIM activists attacked her with flowers and foiled our plans. It is shameful on their part to stage such a drama."

The home minister was also hard put to explain why cases were booked against MIM MLAs on 'lighter' sections and why the police were treating the issue as a protest and not an attack. "It depends on the police officer.

"We condemn the incident and will take action," was the cryptic reaction of the chief minister soon after the attack.

The government did not want to antagonise either the MIM or Muslims in the run up to the elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.

Meanwhile, the police have stepped up security arrangements at the Mecca Masjid and several other parts of old city in the wake of the Friday prayers. The old city has been put on alert and additional platoons of Rapid Action Force were posted at the mosque.

The journalists acted as a shield to save Taslima, who was targeted by MIM activists at the function.

Only six media persons, mostly photographers, were covering the function as the organisers had invited only a handful of people to the function and Taslima's visit was also kept under warps.

'The legislators and those accompanying them were ferocious. Had we not intervened things would have gone out of control,' Ravikanth Reddy, correspondent The Hindu, told newspersons.

Reddy, also secretary of the Hyderabad Press Club, was attending a meeting of the club office bearers in the boardroom at the time when three MIM legislators along with a few supporters barged into the hall where the function was on.

'For half hour no policeman reached the place and it was very difficult to control the legislators and their supporters who were throwing everything they could lay their hands on,' Reddy told IANS.

Some missiles hit the journalists and a couple of writers and other participants who stood between Taslima and the attackers.

'It is because of the presence of journalists that the legislators were a bit restrained but the mood of the others was nasty. One of them was shouting 'Kill her',' said Reddy, who had tried to pacify the legislators.

'Though we managed to push the legislators and some others out of the meeting hall and escorted Taslima to the store room, another group of people arrived and they were more aggressive,' recalled H. Satish, photographer of The Hindu.

'Taslima requested us to call the police, and I told her that the police will be reaching in a few minutes,' he said.

'She came behind me to protect herself. She was really scared,' said K.V.S. Giri, who received minor injuries in the scuffle. 'The attackers threw books kept on the dais at her and some hit me.'

Innaiah Narisetti, who saved Taslima from several missiles, termed the attack as 'shameful'. #

This article was written based on wire service, print and electronic media reports and dispatches

View express in the article is exclusively of the author and not of DurDesh.net