Two people have been reported killed in riots against Humanist writer Taslima Nasrin in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The rioters were protesting alleged “anti-Islamic” statements made in a local newspaper article attributed to Dr. Nasrin.
According to local news reports, thousands of Muslims took to the streets in the town of Shimoga, vandalising shops and damaging vehicles. The rioters were protesting an article in Kannada Prabha, a daily newspaper in Karnataka. The riots subsequently spread to neighbouring areas and were joined by Hindu groups. A group of masked men set fire to the offices of Kannada Prabha and the offices of another newspaper. According to reports from the BBC, the riots led to 50 arrests and injuries to about 50 people.
The Kannada Prabha article, which was printed without Taslima’s knowledge, criticized the traditional Muslim veil, describing it as “a symbol of women’s oppression.” The article appears to have been translated into the local language of Kannada from an article that Taslima originally wrote in English.
Taslima, a Humanist writer who was raised as a Muslim, has long been targeted by Muslim extremists. In 1994, she was forced into exile from her native Bangladesh after mass demonstrations demanded her death for blasphemy and the government charged her with hurting religious feelings. In 2007, after moving to the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal, Muslim protests forced Taslima out of India. She recently returned to India, and even though she is forced to live in hiding, she hopes that the government will allow her to settle in the country permanently.
IHEU has worked closely with Taslima since she was first forced into hiding in Bangladesh in 1994.
In an editorial comment on this week’s riots, The Hindu newspaper strongly defended Taslima Nasrin and noted that “By violently protesting every instance of publication of her articles, the religious fundamentalists obviously want to enforce a ban, otherwise legally unsustainable, on her critical and creative works.”
In a written statement quoted by Reuters, Taslima said, “I suspect that it is a deliberate attempt to malign me and to misuse my writings to create disturbance in the society. I wish peace will prevail.”