Taslima leaves India, to seek asylum in France

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New Delhi, Mar 19: Much against her wishes besides feeling deeply hurt and bitter, controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen today left India for an unknown destination.

Charging the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being no better than "religious fundamentalists," she told reporters at London's Heathrow Airport before taking a connecting flight to her unknown destination, Taslima said she did not want to "compromise" on her security. Reports received here from London said that she had already reached the UK capital. Ms Nasreen left here for London this morning on a British Airways aircraft to take a connecting flight. Sources indicated that she may be headed for France, which had recently honoured her with the Simone de Beauvoir award.

The award was announced by France on January 9 for her work to defend the rights of women. It was to be conferred on her by French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his recent visit to India, but the presentation ceremony was cancelled due to strong objections from New Delhi.

Media reports had earlier suggested that Ms Nasreen might seek asylum in France. The French government had later stated that demands for asylum were examined on a case-by-case basis from individuals from all over the world.

Doctors here had told her that she has hypertension and some problems which were cardiac in nature besides an eye problem.

In an interview to a TV channel, Ms Nasreen had claimed that she was forced to leave India after being repeatedly denied meeting anyone or stepping out.

However, the Bangladeshi writer said she still loves India and her heart is in Kolkata.

''I am being forced to leave India. I have been living under house arrest for seven-and-a-half months - four months in Kolkata and three-and-a-half months in Delhi. I was not allowed to step out or meet anyone. I was constantly under pressure to leave the country,'' Ms Nasreen said.

''I refused to leave India because I love it and settled in this country a few years ago. My home is in Kolkata. But because of stress-related hypertension and not being allowed to see doctors for months, I have developed some difficult diseases from which it is difficult to recover.

''This confinement has left a very bad impact on my mental and physical health. I am forced to leave India to get necessary treatment and save at least the rest of my body, which has not yet been damaged from this extreme stress I went through over the past several months.'' Ms Nasreen also claimed she was being kept out of Kolkata primarily because of political reasons as the Left Front government in West Bengal did not want to antagonise the Muslim voters ahead of the forthcoming panchayat elections in the state.

''I definitely want to come back after the panchayat elections.

I have been told that after the panchayat elections, when the political parties would have got their Muslim votes and won their elections, I would be allowed to go back to Kolkata.'' Asked if she was hoping to come back to Kolkata, she said: ''Yes, I am not giving up my connections with Kolkata. I am keeping everything there. I was not allowed to go to my home in Kolkata to pick up some necessary things, which I needed before leaving the country. Anyway, I sincerely hope I will be allowed to live in Kolkata after two or three months.'


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