Bangladesh-born author Taslima Nasreen, now a Swedish citizen, quietly visited New Delhi to participate in the World Book Fair last week. When in India, Nasreen is required to renew her stay here every two months. However, she is barred from entering West Bengal, which she considers to be her second home. On the condition of not being asked “uncomfortable” questions, she shared her views on some issues with Mohammed Anas. Excerpts:
Q: How did your sudden visit to India come about?
A: Noted Hindi critic Mohan Krishna Vohra has authored a volume on my life and some of my works have been translated into Hindi for the first time by Vani Prakashan. I came here on their invitation.
Q: How do you see the acceptability of your work in India?
A: My work is being translated into several Indian languages, including some regional ones. This means there is growing interest in my writing and it’s very encouraging and personally satisfying for me. People want to read and understand my writing. I have been told that the sale of my books recorded a rise in this book fair.
Q: Do you feel free to speak your heart and mind in India, despite consistent protests against some of your works?
A: Absolutely. India is one of the most inviting countries in the world for artists and authors. I always feel at home in India. Despite being essentially a Bangla writer, I have been appreciated by literati across languages in this country. Only, I miss being in Kolkata.
Q: There has been a debate about intolerance towards writers in India recently. What do you have to say about that?
A: There are some intolerant people in India, but India is not an intolerant country. And intolerant people are there in almost every country.
Q: You say you miss being in Kolkata. You had once said that Mamata Banerjee would allow you to return to the city. Did you receive any feelers from her West Bengal government to this effect?
A: Like the previous CPI(M) government, Mamata Banerjee too decided to appease the fundamentalists of a certain community as she has her eyes set on their votes. Kolkata is a city which values artistic freedom and writers long to be in that city. But the government there has disappointed me.
Q: Do you have any hopes from the current Narendra Modi government? Recently Pakistani singer Adnan Sami was granted Indian citizenship. Will you also apply for the same?
A: I have a Swedish citizenship and thus I am a European national. Plus, I also have the US green card and residence permit. To be truthful, I have never sought Indian citizenship. But I consider India to be my second home and would love to spend my life in Kolkata. I am happy for Adnan Sami. This proves that India has the heart to tide over trivial national and cultural issues. Home Minister Rajnath Singh had promised to extend my visa limit. But unfortunately, I am still forced to get my stay in India extended every two months. Every government has its own compulsions, and calculations.