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West Bengal Government assailed for banning Taslima's book

By Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI, FEB. 18. The Left Front Government of West Bengal came in for criticism for banning the Bangladeshi author, Taslima Nasreen's autobiographical work, Dwikhandita, by the author herself and a host of authors here today.

At a function organised by Vani Prakashan to release Ve Andhere Din, Hindi translation of the fourth part of her seven-part autobiography, Ms. Nasreen said the State Government's decision to ban Dwikhandita came as a shock as she had least expected such a reaction from an administration that claims to be "progressive."

Bangladesh had banned four of Ms. Nasreen's 28 books and such action by her nation did not surprise the 41-year-old author. "But to have a progressive and anti-fundamentalist administration like the West Bengal Government to ban my book is very shocking. This time the West Bengal Government has acted no differently from the pro-fundamentalist, rightwing government of Bangladesh. This is a violation of human rights and one does not expect such action from a civilised country."

Talking to The Hindu later, she was equally scathing in her criticism of fellow authors of West Bengal who "ganged up" against her to force the ban on Dwikhandita. "They abandoned the ideology they have sworn by all their lives."

On the uncharitable comments that have been heaped on her by some of these authors, Ms. Nasreen said: "I have won a number of awards, but the one I treasure the most is the accusation of being a `prostitute' because this means that I have been able to strike hard at the very core of patriarchy which is what I try to oppose through my writings."

Time and again, both at the function and in her brief interaction with the media, Ms. Nasreen maintained that there was nothing "inflammatory" in her book. As for the charge of it being a "kiss-and-tell" story, her contention was that she was only being honest as it was, after all, part of her autobiography. "These very authors were appreciative of the first two parts of my autobiography because there I had not broken out of the oppressive set-up that I grew up in... "

During her brief visit to the Capital amid tight security, Ms. Nasreen also packed in a visit to the World Book Fair where she autographed her books at Vani Prakashan's stall. Here, too, her common refrain to all those who approached her was that bans and fatwas ought to be challenged. Though the National Book Trust, organisers of the fair, had denied Vani Prakashan the space to host the "meet-the-author" programme featuring her for "unavoidable reasons," no attempt was made today to prevent her from being the showstopper of the day.

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