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Taslima Nasrin: Fanaticism on rise in India, Bangladesh

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New Delhi: Drawing parallels between the cold blooded killings of bloggers in Bangladesh and the murder of M.M. Kalburgi, a writer and rationalist from Karnataka, Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin said the incident showed the growing intolerance of religious fanatics in both India and Bangladesh. “Is there no freedom of expression in India? It is supposed to be the largest democratic country and a secular one. In that case, why are rationalists being killed,” asked Nasrin.

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In an interview, the exiled author said it seems that Indian fanatics are taking a cue from Bangladeshi extremists. “Are Indian extremists learning from Bangladeshi extremists? Bangladeshi extremists kill writers who criticise religion. Indian extremists do the same,” Nasrin said. Expressing hope that the Indian government would rein in Kalburgi killers, Nasrin said that she was concerned about the earlier killings of the Indian rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. “I was disturbed when I read about the killings of rationalists Dabholkar and Pansare, even if I don’t know them personally. I live in India and I found it much safer than Bangladesh. I hope the Indian government will take action against the murderers. Let’s have free speech in the subcontinent,” she said.

The writer was vocal in social media and in her writings about the recent slaying of four secular bloggers. “(Bangladesh Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina has been silent and she has not taken any action against the killers,” said Nasrin. Bangladesh has witnessed the murder of four bloggers this year. “The secular bloggers Avijit, Ananta, Babu and Neel were killed in Bangladesh because they spoke against religion and they were atheists. The Sheikh Hasina government was silent. In fact, they work hand in hand with the extremists,” alleged Nasrin. Ruing that Bangladesh was soon going to be “another Pakistan”, Nasrin said that free thinkers and atheists were already fleeing the country. “Bangladesh is going to be another Pakistan. There is no democracy and there are many Islamic fundamentalists in the government and in the ruling party,” added Nasrin.

Maintaining that Islamic fundamentalism was a bigger threat, Nasrin blamed Islam for the violence. “Islam tells people to kill non-believers. However, Hindu religious texts like the (Bhagwad) Gita call for peace,” she said. Nasrin fled Bangladesh in 1994 after death threats by Islamic fundamentalists for her views on Islam. Although she took shelter in Kolkata in 2004, she had to leave after protests in 2007. While Nasrin always maintained that India was home to her, it was only in 2011 that she got permission to live in Delhi. Last week, the Indian government extended the visa for her stay in India for another year. She then returned to India. Nasrin is also happy about the newly-released film “Nirbashito”, a story based on her life. Directed by Churni Ganguly, the movie is being released in the capital. “I am happy about the way it is made. Although it has not going into the details, it has done justice to my story,” Nasrin said.

(IANS)

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No connection between Pansare, Dabhodhar, Kalburgi murders, says govt

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New Delhi: While political pundits in India attributed the poor performance of the BJP in the Bihar polls to the ‘growing intolerance’ and the killing of rationalists Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi, the government in the Centre on Wednesday said, the gruesome incidents were not connected.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told Rajya Sabha that as per available information, there is no report to suggest any linkage/connection between the murders of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi.

Speaking during the Question Hour, he further clarified that there was no proposal to outlaw the right-wing group Santhan Sanstha.

Santhan Sanstha came into the fore for all the wrong reasons when one of its activists was arrested for his alleged involvement with the murder of Pansare.

However, Sanathan Sanstha admitted that the accused was its member, but it rubbished any party’s role in the killing.

Rijiju further said that law enforcing agencies are constantly monitoring the activities of the organisation which are said to spread tension. The government is committed to ensuring maintenance of peace and communal harmony in the country, he added.

A left-wing politician and author, Pansare, was shot on February 16, 2015, in Kolhapur, Maharashtra.  While Dabholkar was murdered on August 2013, Kalburgi was shot on August this year.

Several Sahitya Academy award winner denounced their prize for the government’s inaction to take speedy action against the culprit.

The government’s alleged failure to contain the situation drew flak from several quarters of the civil society. Besides, the ‘award wapsi‘ programme, there were other rallies and marches to protest the deaths.

The Lalu-Nitish coalition in Bihar made good use of the situation to stop the BJP juggernaut and leapfrogged the NDA to assume power in Bihar.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Social boycott to be abolished in Maharashtra

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Mumbai: Maharashtra would soon be India’s first state to come up with a law condemning the act of social boycott by caste panchayats on families or individuals.

Any action pertaining to social boycott has been ruled as a crime according to the draft of the act –‘Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, 2015’, which was published on the state government website on Wednesday.

The heinous practices of the caste panchayats had been protested against by rationalist Narendra Dabholkar before he was murdered in Pune. Several activists and academics have also raised their voices for a law against the practice going on for years.

Maharashtra, in recent times saw an increased number of social boycott incidents and violence pushed by the caste panchayats when their rules weren’t followed.

This is not Maharashtra’s first time in enacting such laws as it was also the first state in the country to pass the anti-superstition law.

The accused, according to the act, would complete trial within six months of the charge sheet being filed. If proven guilty, the accused will face seven years of jail time or Rs 5 lakh fine, or both.

The new act defines ‘Caste Panchayat’ as a registered or unregistered body formed by a group of any community, which functions inside that community to control different practices carried out there. It controls personal and societal behaviours of the community members and works out disputes collectively and ‘resolves’ them by issuing oral or written dictums

Either a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class, whichever the case needed, would have the authority to deem the offence under this act as bailable or triable.

Provision has also been made for the appointment of a Social Boycott Prohibition Officer who would detect crimes in violation of this act. The officer would also provide support to the police officers and the magistrate in their duties.

“It is a positive step from the government and we will be sending our suggestions to the draft. One of the major suggestions would be to make these crimes non-bailable. Hopefully we will succeed in it,” prominent anti-caste panchayat activist in Maharashtra, Krushna Chandgude, told The Hindu.

Advocate Asim Sarode also commended this move by the government, saying that it would encourage more activists to work in this field. Sarode had submitted his own draft to formulate an act.

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Sahitya Akademi condemns intolerance, asks writers to take back awards

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New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi on Friday passed a resolution after a special meeting with writers condemning the prevailing atmosphere of intolerance and violence in the country while unanimously asking the authors to take back their awards and withdraw resignations.

In its resolution, the Sahitya Akademi condemned the killing of rationalist M M Kalburgi and demanded action in this regard besides urging the Centre and state governments to work together.

Over 100 litterateurs have returned their Akademi awards to protest primarily against the attacks by some Hindutva groups on writers and thinkers like Kalburgi.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 writers took out a peaceful march here on Friday to protest against increasing intolerance in the country.

Writers from across the country gathered at Shri Ram Centre near Mandi House and marched towards Sahitya Akademi in the capital, wearing black ribbons on their heads as a sign of protest.

The writers said that the protest was to express their anger against the government for letting anti-social incidents happen and also to attract attention of the academy towards the increasing attacks on litterateurs.

The protest was organised just before Sahitya Akademi’s emergency meeting to discuss various issues.

“Freedom of expression and speech is currently being suppressed in the country. Whatever is happening in the country nowadays, people belonging to minorities and schedule caste feel insecure,” a writer said in the protest.

“The government must take some concrete steps to stop such incidents which shatter nation’s secular fabric. Sahitya Akademi should also pressurize the government and pass some resolution against increasing attacks on the writers,” the protester added.

Earlier this month several writers had returned their awards to register their protest against increasing intolerance in the country.

In an interesting turn of events, there was a protest by another group of writers against the protesting writers at the same venue.

(With inputs from IANS)