Author without a home

Her life is no fairy tale. Ridiculed, threatened and exiled, Taslima Nasreen is still looking for a country to call home. The award winning author was exiled from Bangladesh, her motherland, in 1994. She considers India her home and Kolkata her city.

 

Early life

Taslima was born on August 25 1962 to a Muslim family in Mymensingh, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

She started writing when she was 13, beginning with poetry in literary magazines. After earning her medical degree in 1984, she worked in public hospitals for eight years.

 

Controversy

In 1993, she came up with her novel “Lajja”, which infuriated Muslims of Bangladesh who called for a ban of the novel which depicted a Hindu family being persecuted by Muslims. Taslima was attacked a number of times post publication of the novel and even faced death threats from Islamic fundamentalists.

She escaped to Sweden in 1994 and since then has become a full-fledged writer and activist.

 

Life in Exile

Nasreen lived in exile in Western Europe and North America for ten years. The Swedish government granted her citizenship and she took refuge in Germany. It took six years for her to receive a visiting visa from India and never got a Bangladeshi passport to return to the land when her parents were on their death beds.

Her visits to India were accompanied by an outrage by secular groups. In 2006, Syed Noorur Rehaman Barkati, the imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Mosque, admitted offering money to anyone who “publically humiliates Nasreen’s face”.

The “All India Muslim Personal Board” offered 500,000 rupees for her beheading in March 2007. While muslim leaders in Kolkata revived an old fatwa against her, urging her to leave the country and offered unlimited amount of money to anybody who would kill her.

In 2008, Taslima moved to Uppsala, a city 70 kilometers north of the Swedish capital of Stockholm. She worked as research scholar at New York University and resided in an apartment given to her by the Swedish chapter of the PEN club (the worldwide association for writers).

She eventually returned to India but was forced to stay in the capital as government of West Bengal refused to permit her entry.

 

Accolades

Taslima has been awarded and honoured with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 1994. She has also won the Distinguished Humanist Award from International Humanist and Ethical Union and is the recipient of the Condorcet-Aron Prize, amongst many others.

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