POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Mar 02, 2010 AT 23:44 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 03, 2010 01:53 IST

Trouble seems to follow Taslima Nasreen in India.

Various issues have, as usual, become intertwined in the recent outrage in Karnataka. 

First, the weekly magazine section, Saptahika Prabha, of the Kannada daily, Kannada Prabha (New Indian Express group), published an article purportedly by controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, titled Purdah hai purdah. The newspaper did mention that it was translated from the original English by “Sindhu”.  The source of the article or the date of its original writing was not mentioned.

Meanwhile, an Urdu newspaper Siasat reportedly carried a misleading commentary on the article on March 1. I have not been able to get a copy of their report yet. [See post script:1]

"Protests and riots" follow in Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s home district, Shimoga, killing two people -- one in police firing, and the other succumbing to injuries sustained in stone-pelting. More are injured.

The newspapers express regret. An FIR is filed against both under sections I53A, 153B and 295A of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) "for provoking the public and causing misunderstanding between two communities".

Taslima Nasreen expresses shock at the turn of events, denies having written any article for any Kannada newspaper ever. She also clarifies that she "has never mentioned that Prophet Muhammad was against burqa" and concludes: "Therefore this is a distorted story".

It turns out that the article was an unauthorised translation of a piece first published by Outlook way back in 2007, and also available on her own website, and of course elsewhere on the web.

The translation is said to be quite close to the original, but the jury is still out whether it is an exact word by word translation; many claim that some of the words in the translated version seem more provocative than in the original. [2]

The timing of the article (soon after Taslima applied for permanent residency in India and on Milad-ud-Nabi, when Muslims the world over celebrate the Prophet's birthday) and the place of protests (why should they be in Karnataka chief minister's home district alone when the Muslim concentration is more elsewhere in the state) and the nature of the organised protests, particularly as they are said to be based on distorted reports and incitements about her remarks about the Prophet, and that too on his birthday, has predictably led to questions being raised about foul play.

While it needs to be clearly determined who was behind the incitement and rioting in Hassan and Shimoga, those protesting need to realise that such incidents only perpetuate and strengthen the stereotype of "intolerant" Muslims.

As I write this, comes the news that there have been attacks on the offices of the concerned newspapers.

The newspapers concerned clearly will need to deal with more than just the copyright issues with Taslima Nasreen, but what they immediately need is to be provided full security by the state government.  Other media outfits clearly need to ensure that they do not misreport such sensitive issues. The chief minister has done well to reassure the Muslim community on the floor of the house, but his administration has a very clear task at hand. It needs to not only credibly investigate and bring to book those behind the whole episode, but also press home the point that no matter what the provocation of the written word, there can be NO excuse for any violence of any kind. The fight should be in the battleground of ideas and not on the streets. If anyone disagrees with what has been published, even if it is something she did not write, the way to engage with it is counter-arguments, as letters to editor or as op-eds joining issue. But for that, those protesting need to first check their facts.

Coming soon after l'affaire M.F. Husain, it is time for all sections of society to come together in reemphasising that violence is a totally unacceptable response that simply has no justification and will not be condoned.

Post Script:

1. More context from the Indian Express:

On Monday, Siasat, whose Karnataka edition is managed by Congress leader Roshan Baig, published a report alleging that the Kannada daily had published derogatory remarks against Muslims in the Sunday piece....

Baig said his paper only carried a news item on the Kannada paper’s coverage. “It’s a 2007 article by Taslima Nasreen, which has been up on some hardline Hindu websites and was carried very prominently by Kannada Prabha on Sunday, with a provocative headline from an old Hindi song ‘Purdah hai Purdah’, and pictures of women in burqas. My paper just carried a news item on that coverage which was printed on Monday,” Baig said.

“My mother had passed away on Sunday, so I was not in the office or overseeing things that day. Otherwise, I may have ensured that this was not carried. Anyway, what we carried was a brief report,” he said.

According to Baig, his newspaper cannot be connected to the violence in Shimoga. “It had nothing to do with our coverage as our paper reaches Shimoga only by about 12 noon or 1 pm. Urdu is also not read that much by Muslims in that part of the state. They are mostly Kannada-speaking. There is no way our paper could have contributed to the outrage,” he said. 

2. Hindustan Times: In Bangalore, representatives of the Muslim community met senior members of the Express Group of newspapers (which publishes Kannada Prabha). Many agreed Taslima’s words in her original article don’t seem as provocative as they appeared after translation.

3. The Siyasat report has now been posted -- March 4, 2010

Also See: Joint statement in February 2007 from Khushwant Singh, Arundhati Roy, Leila Seth, Kuldip Nayyar, Vijay Tendulkar, Aruna Roy, Shyam Benegal, Girish Karnad, Saeed Naqvi, Y.P. Chibber (General-Secretary, PUCL), Shanker Singh (MKSS, Rajasthan), Nikhil Dey (MKSS, Rajasthan) in response to the Outlook article:

We uphold Taslima Nasrin’s right to speak forthrightly on any subject, including the burqa. It is her fundamental right. Instead of taking her on intellectually, her detractors are using a reprehensible way of suppressing her opinions. They are gathering outside her apartment in Calcutta, and demanding that the government should throw her out of the country. Keeping in mind that her visa expires by next week, this is a clear sign of intimidating her into retracting her views. It would be a shame if we who pride ourselves on our democratic traditions should refuse her asylum on this count. Or at the very least an extension of her visa

To read more published responses to the article, please click here

POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Mar 02, 2010 AT 23:44 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 03, 2010 01:53 IST
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Daily Mail
Mar 09, 2010
06:39 PM
>> But who are the so-called intellectuals. They are all part of society as much as you and me are. Let it begin with us.

Our voices may not cross the Internet. The so called intellectuals are those whose voices are heard throughout the country. Of course, we may push them through the net if they are available, but they should be ready to face criticism. Most of them start calling names if you point out their mistakes.
Rajesh Kumar
Bangalore, India
Mar 09, 2010
03:05 PM
Rajesh Kumar,

>> This is where the role of the State and the Intellectuals come in. If they show double standards, the public is going to get frustrated and join the extreme groups. It applies to all communities.

But who are the so-called intellectuals. They are all part of society as much as you and me are. Let it begin with us. Let us unequivocally condemn all acts of communal/religious violent extremism and urge others to do the same. I am sure all honest people without a political motivation to support/indulge in violent extremism will support and be part of such a resolution.
Bangalore, India
Mar 09, 2010
02:59 PM
Varun Shekhar,

>> Though there have been arrest warrants, PIL's and vandalism, none of those individuals hurting Hindu sentiments(like Deepa Mehta etc) are in danger of losing their life. They don't require round-the-clock security

The hands of hindutva extremists are not without innocent blood/killings on their hands. But looks like unless one is the bottom of the heap or the worst of the lot, it is ok for you, as long they use the word hindu somewhere in their name. That’s a very poor standard though.
Bangalore, India
Mar 09, 2010
01:15 AM
>> Since the vandals are doing it for political reasons, once there is no public support, they will stop.

Exactly. This is what we need to achieve. How do we make the extremists lose the support of the general public ? This is where the role of the State and the Intellectuals come in. If they show double standards, the public is going to get frustrated and join the extreme groups. It applies to all communities.

>>What about the attack on Deepa Mehta?
This should have been condemned as well. But frankly, I am not aware of many of the other things you mentioned. May be they were not as publicized as some of the others.

What about the attacks on writer/publisher etc of a booklet by name ‘satyadarshini’?

But dont include this Satyadarshini in this list. This was not a case of criticism but an extreme case of plain abuse and lies aimed at one religion for alleged purpose of conversion. If it was criticism, the church should have stood by its clergy but they distanced themselves much like the other extreme organizations and even condemned it.

>> We can all fight for the weak-kneed approach of Indian state in dealing with extremists.
Yes, this is the need of the hour. But I suppose this is never going to happen with even Members of parliament directly going to attack functions like book launch.
Rajesh Kumar
Bangalore, India
Mar 09, 2010
01:10 AM
"They don't require round-the-clock security if they settle in Canada or Qatar.

But why wouldn't they? If the idea is that they are in danger from Hindus, there are hundreds of thousands of Hindus in those places. Obviously, they are not in any serious danger. Protests, criticism, even the odd accosting, but not murder.
Varun Shekhar
Toronto, CANADA
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