India; shame, says Mahasweta Devi
Kolkata, March 19 (IANS) Bangladeshi writer Taslima
Nasreen, confined for nearly four months to a 'safe
house', finally left India Wednesday for medical
treatment abroad. Magsaysay winning social activist
Mahasweta Devi dubbed her departure as "shame" for
India. "I am at Heathrow airport now, waiting for a
connecting flight," Nasreen told a friend in Kolkata
from London but it was not yet clear where she was
heading to from there.
Sources said she left New Delhi Wednesday morning
alleging that she was denied treatment in India and
forced to live like a prisoner in a "death chamber".
Nasreen was almost forced to live in a "safe house" in
New Delhi since November-end after she was shunted out
of Kolkata following unprecedented street violence
over her stay in India and previous writings that
criticize Islam and its treatment of women.
Mahasweta Devi, the 82-year-old activist and writer,
told IANS: "It is a shame. The circumstances under
which she left are reprehensible for a free and
"I read her email where she described her stay in New
Delhi like living in a death chamber. I called her up
and asked her to leave and get better treatment," she
"West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee
colluded to ensure that she was forced to leave India.
It is a conspiracy in the name of Muslim votes.
"Is this independent India? It is a dangerous
situation where a woman seeking asylum is put behind
walls," she said.
Earlier, Nasreen told IANS: "I can't take it any more.
I will die if I continue to live like this."
"I am losing my eyesight, my heart is damaged. I have
to survive. I am dying like this. I have to
immediately get good treatment because I am not even
getting cardiologists here," she said from her
undisclosed address in New Delhi where she was
sheltered by the government from fundamentalists.
The author, facing protests, was kept incognito for
nearly four months in a place near New Delhi. Security
restrictions were imposed on her movement even in
Kolkata before she was forced out of the city Nov 21
last year following violent protests.
She was living virtually in a house arrest and was not
allowed to receive visitors.
India's external affairs ministry in mid-February
extended her visa but restrictions on her movements
"I want to come back to Kolkata - my home - if I am
allowed and not put in prison like this again. Right
now my only concern is to live and get proper medical
attention," said Nasreen. She recently spent a few
days in a New Delhi hospital.
"Stress and hypertension is killing me. There is
already a big damage to my heart. I need to save the
rest," she said.
"My world is in Kolkata. I have not been allowed to
visit the city and collect my own belongings. I hope
my friends in Kolkata would help me since I am not
allowed to go there," she said.
West Bengal's ruling Left Front shunted out Nasreen
Nov 21 last year after street violence in Kolkata over
her extended stay in India.
Nasreen, who was already living confined in a Kolkata
apartment, was taken first to Jaipur and then to New
Delhi by the central government and has since been
kept in a safe house.
In an earlier interview, the 45-year-old author had
said impassionedly: "I am only breathing. I don't
think I am alive like you are. Can anybody live like
this? It was beyond my imagination that in a secular
democracy like India, such a thing could happen to a
On Nov 30 Nasreen had agreed to expunge controversial
portions from her autobiography "Dwikhandita" (Split
Though Jyoti Basu, the patriarch of the state's ruling
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), said on Dec
25 that Nasreen was welcome to return to Kolkata, the
Left Front government has chosen to remain silent on
In a delicate balancing act, Mukherjee had promised to
"shelter" Nasreen but urged her to "refrain from
activities and expressions" that may hurt the
sentiments of Indian people and harm relations with