A few weeks ago, Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin was spirited away from Delhi, India to a destination unknown. Controversial and banned in the country of her birth, she was denounced and subject of a fatwa in Bangladesh in 1993, leading to her fleeing to Europe and later India.
In the wee hours of Wednesday, exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen slipped out of her "safe house" in New Delhi and boarded the flight to London.
Home Ministry officials accompanied Taslima and put her up in the business class of the British Airways that left Delhi at 3:30 am on Wednesday.
Never one to keep out of controversy even after going into exile, her 2003 memoir Dwikhandito (Split Apart) was banned by the Indian state government of West Bengal on the charge of hurting religious feelings. The ban was lifted by the Kolkata High Court in 2005.
Of late, she had been living in Delhi under a virtual form of house arrest, due to fundamentalist- sponsored outrage against her even in West Bengal, which she had hoped to make her permanent home. But it was not to be. Citing failing health and intolerable stress, she is now on the run again, moving into another exile from an exile.
In a lecture given in Tuft University in 2003, she made a powerful case for the freedom of speech vs. the freedom of religion ( or rather constraints of religion in the name of secularism.) There were critics aplenty in the audience , but she silenced them with this reading of a translation of her poem.
Nasrin countered rather effectively by reading out her poem entitled, Noorjahan, based on actual events (Noorjahan was stoned to death by fundamentalists in Bangladesh).
They have made Noorjahan stand in a hole in the courtyard
There she stands submerged to her waist, her head hanging
They're throwing stones at Noorjahan
Stones that are striking my body
I feel them on my head, forehead, chest, back
And I hear laughing, shouts of abuse
Noorjahan's fractured forehead pours out blood, mine also
Noorjahan's eyes have burst, mine also
Noorjahan's nose has been smashed, mine also
Noorjahan's torn breast and heart have been pierced, mine also
Are these stones not striking you?
They laugh aloud, stroking their beards
Their tupis [caps] shaking with jubilation
As they swing their walking sticks
They with quivering and cruel eyes speed to pierce her body, mine too
Are these arrows not piercing your body?
The controversy may have overtaken the literary merits of her work, but she has become a cause celebre, much like Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, threatened with death just for daring to speak her mind.
The pity of it is that even in exile, she is not allowed a modicum of peace, being hounded into wandering the earth in search of a place to call home.