The Forum for the Protection of Free Speech and Expression protests the rising incidents of assault on free speech across the country, including the forced incarceration of writer Taslima Nasreen (statement signed by Mahasweta Devi, Arundhati Roy, Ashish Nandy, Girish Karnad and others, as published in Communalism Combat)
"In the case of Taslima Nasreen it was the CPI(M) and not any religious or sectarian group who first tried to ban her book Dwikhondito some years ago. The ban was lifted by the Calcutta High Court and the book was in the market and on best-seller lists in West Bengal for several years. During those years Taslima Nasreen lived and worked as a free person in Kolkata without any threat to her person, without being the cause of public disorder, protests or demonstrations.
"Ironically, Taslima Nasreen’s troubles in India began immediately after the Nandigram uprising when the people of Nandigram, mostly Dalits and Muslims, rose to resist the West Bengal government’s attempt to take over their land and tens of thousands of people marched in Kolkata to protest the government’s actions. Within days a little known group claiming to speak for the Muslim community asked for a ban on Dwikhondito and demanded that Taslima Nasreen be deported. The CPI(M)-led government of West Bengal immediately caved in to the demand, informed her that it could not offer her security and lost no time in deporting her from West Bengal against her will. The Congress-led UPA government has condoned this act by holding her in custody in Delhi and refusing, thus far, to extend her visa and relieve her of her public humiliation. They have once again played the suicidal card of pitting minority communalism against majority communalism, a game that can only end in disaster.
"Inevitably, hoping to make political capital out of the situation, the BJP is publicly shedding crocodile tears over Taslima Nasreen, going to the extent of offering her asylum in Gujarat. It seems to expect people to forget that the BJP, VHP and RSS cadres have been at the forefront of harassing, persecuting, threatening and vandalising newspaper offices, television studios, galleries, cinema halls, filmmakers, artists and writers. Or that they have forced MF Husain, one of India’s best known painters, into exile.
"Meanwhile, in states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, away from the public glare of press conferences and television cameras, journalists are being threatened and even imprisoned. Prashant Rahi from Uttarakhand, Praful Jha from Chhattisgarh, Srisailum from Andhra Pradesh, P. Govind Kutty from Kerala, are a few examples. As we speak, Govind Kutty, who is on a hunger strike in prison, is being force-fed, bound hand and foot. Scores of ordinary people, including people like civil rights activist Binayak Sen, have been arrested and held illegally under false charges."