Thursday, February 14, 2008

Govt extends Taslima’s visa

I believe that the ban on People’s March should be lifted immediately and its editor unconditionally released,” says Arundhati.

After sleeping over Taslima Nasreen’s visa application due to political compulsions, the government woke up on Wednesday to renew the visa of the controversial Bangladeshi writer amidst complaints by a slew of authors and journalists that political parties and their armed squads were mounting a concerted assault on people’s right to free speech.

The writer’s Indian visa was last extended for six months on August 10 last year and she ran into a fresh round of controversy two months back with violent protests by a little-known Muslim group in West Bengal complaining that her writings were anti-Islam.

The Centre, preferring not to take a strong stand, kept her in a safe house in the Capital against the wish of the writer to return to West Bengal where the State Government was unenthusiastic about receiving her.

“Taslima is only one in a long list of journalists, writers, scholars and artists who have been persecuted, banned, imprisoned, forced into exile or had their work desecrated in this country,” writers Mahasweta Devi, Arundhati Roy, Outlook magazine editor Vinod Mehta and Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal, among others, said in a press statement.

The writers also alleged that Taslima was told by External Affairs Ministry officials that it would be better if she left for a European country at government expense to return when the controversy lost steam, advice turned down by the author.

Every day the threat to free speech and expression increases, the writers say citing the detention of journalists Prashant Rahi from Uttarkhand, P Govidan Kutty from Kerala, Srisailum from Andhra Pradesh and Praful Jha from Chhattisgarh.

“Govindan Kutty, editor of People’s March, a publication banned for being sympathetic to Maoist ideology, has been arrested and imprisoned.

The Maoists have as much right to freedom of expression, as much right to place their ideology - however abhorrent the government or anybody else may believe it to be - in the public domain, in the so-called ‘market place of ideas’ as anybody else.

I believe that the ban on People’s March should be lifted immediately and its editor unconditionally released,” says Arundhati. The writers and journalists in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also urged the release of all writers and journalists in detention.

They demanded that the spurious cases filed against M F Husain be dropped and he be allowed to return to a normal life in India.

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