Edward Snowden asked 21 nations for political asylum. He got nothing but rejection, proving once again that free speech is just a decorative item for most governments. India’s embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s request for asylum. His request was rejected within hours. Since then, there has been much discussion about India’s generosity over giving shelter to persecuted people—and so then, why not Snowden? India has in the past granted political asylum to Dalai Lama and many other rebels. Some even mention my name in the list.
I am not sure whether I should be considered a political refugee in India. I was thrown out of my country, Bangladesh, in 1994 and found myself landing in Europe. It was difficult for me to live in a place which has a totally different climate and culture from where I grew up. Since I knew I couldn’t return to my country, I wanted to come to India. But India kept her doors firmly shut. Towards the end of 1999, I was given permission to visit as a tourist.
I’m not surprised India refused Snowden asylum. How can a country give asylum to a person chased by the almighty US when it panics over giving a residence permit to a secular writer? But with India, one understands; it can’t afford to take risks or make any big political mistake now. Indeed, a European country should have given Snowden asylum. They have a long tradition of defending writers and journalists. Compared to India, they have a much older, truer democracies, and violation of rights and free speech is a rarity there. It’s time for Europe to show they are not mere colonies of the US. However glorious a past India may have had, it doesn’t have the courage to face possible US sanctions. If democracy were practised everywhere, and if it were not reduced to mere elections, independent voices from independent countries would have been respected. As it stands, the human species is yet to make the world an evenly civilised place. We ordinary people pay the brunt, we sacrifice our dignity, honor, rights and freedom. I really feel sorry for Snowden. If I were a country, I’d have given him asylum.
Bangladesh-born Taslima Nasrin is the author of Lajja and other novels; E-mail your columnist: letters AT outlookindia.com
This article appeared in print under the title 'India Has No Courage' which was changed online to more accurately represent Ms Nasrin's views by using a direct quote from her piece.
Taslima Nasreen should be thankful for whatever India has done for her (‘India has no Courage’). Her experience should not be construed as a benchmark of India’s policies.
C.P. Nair, Kannur
She may have got it wrong about Snowden, but Taslima is right about her own situation. She is being persecuted simply for having a point of view that Muslims largely do not like. It’s amazing how all those shrill voices who were out in support of M.F. Husain’s right to paint Hindu goddesses in the nude are silent on the same right of expression for Taslima. A democratic and secular regime must provide her sanctuary as well as a long-term visa.
Ashutosh Kaul, Toronto
Since the Congress is by now a handmaiden of the US, it could not have granted Snowden asylum. And being behoven to the minority vote for its being in power, it cannot give Taslima her rights. PS: what’s the best bet that Snowden will soon be charged with a sexual offence?
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
That damn political expediency will cow you down every time. We just don’t have the guts to take on Uncle Sam.
Shyamal Barua, Calcutta
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
24 D Rajesh
You hit the nail on the head.
Compairing Snowden with Taslima is apples with oranges.
A China ( last century ) or Bangladesh ( weak ) are not comparable to the might of the Americans.
Whatever the gender of the offender might be
Damn political expediency, or hard nosed decision. India just do'nt have the guts to even consider giving asylum to Snowden, or for that matter any fugitive of Uncle Sam.
>> I doubt if the UPA can take a hard nosed decision for the sake of the country. Every decision has been taken keeping in mind political expediency.
It would be hard-nosed decision if the NDA government had taken it, but political expediency if the UPA government took it!
"For once, UPA government (has) taken hard nosed political decision."
It is not a difficult decision to take. It was a no-brainer. India has nothing to gain and plenty to lose by adopting an anti-US position. I doubt if the UPA can take a hard nosed decision for the sake of the country. Every decision has been taken keeping in mind political expediency.
For once, UPA government is kept Indian interest in mind and taken hard nosed political decision.
I second you.
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