I was born in India. Most of the time I am quite content that the land of my birth is not a hell-hole. But every now and then I am rudely awakened to the fact that to a very large extent, it is ruled by a bunch of slaves, criminals and myopic morons. I read Taslima Nasreen’s heartfelt question “What is my crime?” with rising disgust and distaste for what India appears to be at times — a pathetic Third-world country with the morals of a bottom-dwelling creature and the ethics of pond-scum. Read the whole thing by Taslima and weep — a bit for Taslima but a lot for Mother India. Here’s just the last bit.
India is a vast country. From the beginning of history, innumerable people ended up in this cul de sac. Some have visited and then left, others have stayed, sending their roots firmly down. India has always warmly embraced every stranger, people of different colours, languages, religions, ethnicity and opinions. The door was ever open to an outsider. With hundreds of languages and cultures, India is unique in its generosity to the stranger. So why is there no place for me?
I’ve never asked for political asylum from India. All I want is to be able to live here. I might breathe in a distant land somewhere, but my heart is in Bengal. So why is my appeal to live here dealt with politically? Some argue that if India were to grant me citizenship, then her relationship with Bangladesh would worsen. As if I were a common criminal wanted back home that India is harbouring! Fact is, Bangladesh doesn’t want me.So if India gives me a home, why should it concern Bangladesh at all? When I stay in Europe and America, does it worsen their relationship with Bangladesh? Instead, I imagine Bangladesh heaving a sigh of relief if India grants me shelter, like going to an aunt after fighting with your mother.
I can’t help recalling those days when authors from the West joined together to save me. They not only put pressure on their own governments but also prevailed on the European Union to save a writer from oblivion. It was thanks to their efforts that governments in the West were compelled to save me from being hanged. Then followed a kind of tug-of-war between various countries. Norway, Sweden, Germany, everyone wanted me to live with them. Granting me residency or even citizenship was a prestige issue for them: it would ensure them fame.
I don’t know who decides whether or not I stay in West Bengal. Some say the government wants to please the Muslims. Some say it’s the intellectuals who’re afraid, or jealous. Did West Bengal ever love me? Yes, she did. Annadasankar Roy, a famous free thinker, once said affectionately that “Bangladesh is Taslima’s mother and West Bengal her aunt”. When I talked of women’s rights, I got a hard kick from Bangladesh and a kiss from West Bengal. Actually it’s not the country which kicks or kisses, but the people. I have noticed that the number of secular and rational people here is far more than in Bangladesh.
And just as I love East Bengal, return again and again at its door even when I’ve been thrown out, just so do I love and return here to West Bengal.