Bangladeshi writer-in-exile Taslima Nasreen was attacked at the Hyderabad Press Club today (Babu Gogineni reports), where she was launching the Telegu translation of her book Shodh (“Getting Even”). The attackers were members of the radical political group Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM), led by three elected members of the Legislative Assembly. She responded, “Come what may, I will never be silenced.”
Both missiles and obscene threats were launched against Taslima, but fortunately she was not injured as the attackers were unable to get very close to her. The Humanist activist Dr Innaiah was injured on the face by objects thrown by the protesters: they were throwing whatever they could lay their hands on, including flower bouquets, handbags and other items. They were even picking up chairs to threaten Taslima. Mr M Nagaeswara Rao of the Eenadu Journalism School and and Dr Innaiah were seen on television dissuading them.
Shockingly, the attackers themselves were elected representatives of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly and members of the fundamentalist Muslim party Majlis Ijttehaadul Muslimeen, accompanied by a few dozen followers. The leaders were arrested and will appear before a magistrate. Their rowdy followers held up traffic on a long stretch of road in Hyderbad, protesting her arrival in the city; they demanded that she be deported for having offended their religion, and they wanted their leaders released. Many of them say that they will kill her if they have the opportunity.
The journalists’ union has demanded that the three elected representatives be suspended from membership of the Legislature. There has been country-wide support from all quarters for Taslima, and in defence of free speech, including the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and the Union Ministry in Delhi. There was universal condemnation for what happened, including from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Telugu Desam Party and many NGOs. The Home Minister Jana Reddy condemned the attack in strong terms, promised stringent action against those who became violent, and claimed that this could have been avoided had the police been given prior information about her arrival in the city.
Following death threats, Taslima was forced to leave Bangladesh 12 years ago. Her book Dwikhandita was initially banned by the communist Government of West Bengal and later published following a court injunction.