Some Western countries and their press and media are showing undue interests regarding the recent events in Bangladesh involving Taslima Nasren. They have been making diverse but unkind comments on the state of human rights in Bangladesh. Their criticisms are generally based on the following grounds :
- One of hier novels ‘Lajja’ has been proscribed by the Government of Bangladeshi on 10 July 1993.
- Government of Bangladesh has impounded her passport preventing her from travelling abroad thereby violating her fundamental rights.
- She is facing’a ‘Fatwal of death sentence from a fundamentalist gidup in Bangladesh for her writings, which are said to be ‘defending’ women’s rights and critical of the Holy Quran, Islamic teachings, provisions of shariat, and Promoting’ rights of women etc.
The Government has banned Taslima’s novel ‘Lajja’ as it contained substance prejudicial to state which might create misunderstanding and mistrust among different communities living in Bangladesh. The ban was imposed in the interest of Public order’ which every Government is duty bound to maintain.
The passport of Taslima Nasren, then a Government doctor was impounded by the immigration authorities for giving false statement concealing her real professional identity as a Government servant. As soon as her resignation from Govt. service was accepted, she was issued with a fresh international passport.
The so called village Mollah’s have reportedly pronounced fatwa of death against Taslima for her alleged statements against Islam. Issuing of threat against the life of the people by any individual or group is a punishable offence and the Government in a press note issued recently has warned all concerned to refrain from making such threats, otherwise legal action will be taken against them.
Afier issuance of new passport Taslima visited some Western countries, where she made several statements to media and feminist groups. As has been seen from the press reports her statements contained elements hurting the sentiments of the Muslims. On 9 May ’94 the Statesman of Calcutta published an interview of Taslima thoroughly”, which infuriated the Muslims both in India and Bangladesh. In another interview with ‘Der spicgal’ 13-6-94 of Hamburg, Germany, she said, “the Quran is superfluous” she has also been quoted as saying. “I think Quran is wrong in many points.”
A criminal case has been filed against Taslima Nasren, under section 295 (A) of Bangladesh Penal Code, for her alleged deliberate and malicious public statements outranging the sentiments of the vast majority of people of Bangladesh. In this case the State of Bangladesh is the complainant and Taslima Nasren is the accused.
She is now l’ugitive and absconding from the due process of law. If she has not committed any criminal act as alleged, it is for her to prove her innocence before the court of law.
She is seeking 10 capitalise on external sympathy through a segment of forcign press and media, instead of seeking legal remedy in the courts of law, which are widely recognised to be fair and free. The concerned section of the foreign press and media is not presenting the facts of the case correctly, but highlighting emotive and extraneous issues not relevant to the criminal case.
Bangladesh does not have any blashpemy law like many of the Western countries. Our law under which she is being prosecuted is a secular law, which was enacted more than hundred years ago, giving non-discriminatory protection to believers of all faiths. Her public statements are now under the scrutiny of a secular law enacted by the British; whereas foreign news media are giving the impression that Taslima Nasren is being persecuted. It is quite clear that widescale misrepresentation of facts is being made by the international news media and certain section of people either due to ignorance or with motive. Bangladesh Government is of the firm view that the whole issue of Taslima Nasren has been blown out of all proportions.
The Following adverse aspects of Taslima issue has been highlighted:
- The Government of Bangladesh is not protecting the sundamental rights and freedom of speech of a citizen;
- The Government is yielding to fundamentalist pressures;
- Taslima Nasreen is being persecuted for her legitimate and lawful views on religion and sex;
- (She cannot be tried in Bangladesh for public comments made abroad, particularly in view of her subsequent denial of having used the alleged words in her remarks on Islam;
- She may not get a fair trial in Bangladeshi courts;
- The Government is not prosecuting those making unlawsul dcath threats against her and to that extent the Government is being discriminatory;
- Non-bailable warrant of arrest means she will be automatically imprisoned once she appears before the court.
Replies to allegations outlined above are given below:
- The general limits of fundamental rights and freedom of speech of an individual are defined by the laws of a particular society. Rights cannot be taken as open licence. Freedom is not anarchy. Every legal system defines the concept of balance between the rights of the society and rights of the individual.
- The Government of Bangladesh is extending the protection of law of Taslima Nasren by seeking justifiability of her right to make the alleged public statements. It is only the court which can protect her against alleged excesses of public wrath. But she has chosen not to avail herself of the protection offered under the due process of law.
- The Government is acting in accordance with the secular law of the land. Such an interpretation would be unfair as well as inconsistent with the facts of the case.
- Prosecution under the law cannot be called persecution. She is entitled to her, private views on any subject as long as she does not transgress the limits of law. It is now for the court of law to jud whether her public statements tantamount to criminal conduct. She is obstructing the due process of law and to deflect public opinion from her alleged criminal conduct, she is blaming the Government of persecution.
- The courts of Bangladesh are widely recognised to be free, fair and independent. The past records of our courts would convince anyone about the prospects of a fair trial under the law. : (VI) A complaint has been lodged by relation of Taslima Nasren before a court of law in the city of Khulna. On the same issue more than one case is not necessary. Now it is for the court to decide whcther there is credible evidence to establish the alleged death threats against hes, by any individual or any group of individuals.
- In the case of non-bailable warrant it is up to the court alone to decide whether bail can be granted to the accused or not. It is not mandatory for the court to imprison the accused in this case. Hence, Taslima Nasren is denying to herself the protection of the law.
- The Govt. has in the meantime warned that issuance of threat against life of people and announcement of reward for the killers is à punishable offence.
A Press Note issued by the Home Ministry said the Government has been observing that some persons and organisations have been issuing threats against the lives of some persons announcing rewards for the killers. This kind of announcement is a punishable offence in the eye of law, it added.
The Government expressed the hope that all concerned would refrain from making such illegal pronouncements and show respect to the law. Otherwise, the Government will be compelled to take legal action against them, it warned.
Further, it may be added that Taslima Nasreen and her writings and words are being given wide and undue publicity by a fundamentalist political party of a neighbouring country. The motivated use of her fiction ‘Lajja’ for questionable political purposes have also been criticised by conscientious people and political leaders of that country.
As a matter of fact before going into hiding in the first week of June 1994 Taslima Nasren used to lead a very free and unrestricted life. Some of her writings used 10 be published regularly in several newspapers and she was very often seen in the diplomatic parties and other social gatherings. Her movements were not at all restricted not to speak of her social life with friends both local and foreign. On her request and by the-order of the court she was given twenty-four hour police protection free of cost, unlike other developed societies where such protection is subject to payment by the person so protected.
If Taslima has hurt the sentiments of Muslims (fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist irrespective) by maligning the Holy Quran, it is only expected that the belivers of religion, not necessarily of Islam. do not give indulgence to her to perpetuate her condemnation of her own religion which is also the religion of millions of Muslims. The believers of Holy Geeta or Holy Bible will certainly not grant similar indulgence when their holy books are under similar attack.
(External Publicity Wing, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh).
Click on the icon below to download the ‘Nobojagaran’ Android application from the Play Store.
Click on the icon below to like the Facebook page of ‘Nobojagaran’.