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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Ban on Taslima’s Dwikhandita justified: Bengal CM 
By Andalib Akhter

Kolkata: The Left Front government in West Bengal has justified the ban on Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen’s latest book, Dwikhandita (‘Split in Two’). It said that the circulation of the book could incite communal violence in the state and elsewhere as the book is a work of blasphemy.
The government contended that at no point of time has the book been proscribed on political or literary grounds.

In a government notification issued recently, the state LF government has formally invoked the ban under section 95 of the code of Criminal Procedure, read with Act 153 of the Indian Penal Code (where it is considered a criminal and punishable act to create enmity, rivalry, and hatred amongst religious communities. 

It may be recalled that Bharatiya Janata Party and other communal outfits have supported Taslima Nasreen’s derogatory references to Islam and has opposed the proscription of the book. West Bengal BJP chief Tathagata Roy has termed the move 'undemocratic'. 
The book which forms a part of Nasreen’s multi-volume autobiography, besides maligning Islam, has also been indicted by the intellectuals and Bengla reading public with obscenity and its maligning and falsified personal references to the lives of several noted scholars of Bengal and Bangladesh.

State secretary of the CPI (M), Anil Biswas said that there was apprehension expressed widely that the book would spark off communal tension, and that many writers and experts supported this view. In fact he said the LF government has banned the book for the ‘sake of the maintenance of democracy’ in Bengal. Several newspapers, too, have expressed similar views. Biswas pointed out that "from the time the Left Front has been in office in Bengal not a single book or publication has been proscribed on political grounds." However, said Biswas, it was a different matter altogether if a publication of a book incited hatred and communalism.

Chief minister of Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on whose instance the notification of banning the book was issued, said he had himself read the book "several times over" and he has "persuaded at least 25 noted specialists to go through the book critically" and that they too have recommended the book as not fit for circulation among the reading public. "The pages 49-50 of the book in particular contain very derogatory and provocative references that go against the grain of the tenets of Islam and of Islamic beliefs" he contented. 

Several noted authors including the poet Sunil Gangopadhyay, the novelists, Dibyendu Palit, Nabanita Deb Sen, and Syed Mustafa Siraj, the Bangladeshi novelist, Sams-ul Huq, the singer Suman Chatterjee, as well as the Trinamul Congress leader and Kolkata mayor, Subrata Mukherjee, among others, have come out openly against the book and have supported the decision by the state LF government to get the book banned. Terming Taslima Nasreen a blot on the women of the world, Pradesh Congress leader Somen Mitra has described the book as a piece of pornography. "Nobody ought to assume rights to hurt the sentiments of a religious community", he said. 

Justifying the ban on the book, Anil Biswas made it clear that the book was banned because of the fact that portions of the book would cause religious disharmony in the society and the book could fan the flame of communal fire. Unfortunately the silence of Mamata Banerjee on the issue has raised many questions on her credibility of being a champion of secularism. 

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