Editors appeal to relax Taslima's ''jail-like'' conditions

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New Delhi, Dec 27 (UNI) Coming out in support of Bangladeshi Writer Taslima Nasreen, leading editors and intellectuals have appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to relax the ''close to prison conditions'' in which she is being kept under the Central government's care, arguing that this is ''beginning to strain her mental health''.

In separate letters to Dr Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, they said: ''Despite her repeated requests to the officials in charge of her security, she has neither been allowed to receive her friends nor to visit them.'' The signatories to the letter -- Outlook Editor Vinod Mehta, Khuswant Singh, Kuldip Nayar, Arundhati Roy, Shyam Benegal, Girish Karnad and M A Baby -- said the ''jail-like conditions are naturally beginning to strain Taslima's mental health. She can neither sleep at night nor do any work.'' They also quoted her as telling her friends that ''it is like being buried alive.'' She also has a constant fear that even her cellphone and laptop -- her only connection to the world -- will soon be confiscated.

''Such conditions are unfair even for a prisoner, let alone for a writer,'' says the letter.

Appealing to the government to ensure that Taslima is provided with adequate security, they said she be ''allowed to exercise a reasonable degree of freedom, whether it is to visit her friends or to receive them'' in the safe-house where she is now living.

In their letter, the editors and intellectuals said: ''We learn from Taslima Nasreen that the conditions under which she is now living under the care of the Central Government are close to prison conditions: despite her repeated requests to the officials in charge of her security, she has neither been allowed to receive her friends nor to visit them.

''Each request to meet someone has yielded the same response: the government has ordered that you neither go out yourself or to meet anyone where you stay.'' They also complained that all her pleas for living a normal life, if not in Kolkata, at least in Delhi, had been summarily rejected without offering her any explanation.

''While we can understand the need for adequate security, we think this is carrying things too far. Please ensure that while she still gets adequate security, she is allowed to exercise a reasonable degree of freedom, whether it is to visit her friends or to receive them in her place of residence,'' says the letter.

Meanwhile, a group of prominent Hindi writers held a meeting here yesterday, demanding that Taslima be allowed to return to Kolkata and Indian citizenship granted to her.

The meeting, organised by Vani Prakashan, the publisher of the controversial writer's books, was attended by Natwar Singh, Rajendra Yadav, Kedarnath Singh and Ram Sharan Joshi.

The writers accused the Central government of adopting a double standard in the case of Taslima by not allowing her to go back to Kolkata even though it boasted its secular credentials.

UNI

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