New Delhi: Exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen accused noted author Sunil Gangopadhyay of sexually harassing her and other women. She also alleged that the President of the Sahitya Akademi was actively involved in banning her novel 'Dwikhandito' and her "banishment" from West Bengal.
"Sunil Gangapadhyay is for book banning. He sexually harassed me and many other women. He is the President of the Sahitya Akademi. Shame shame!" Nasreen tweeted recently. When contacted, Gangopadhyay refused to comment on the accusations levelled by Nasreen and said he was "too busy with pending work to comment on such a thing."
Violent protests by Muslim groups in 2007 forced Indian authorities to rush out the controversial writer from her home in Kolkata where she lived for four years. After moving her around for a while, the authorities put her in an undisclosed "safe house" in New Delhi, where she only has a mobile phone, a laptop and a television set, but no visitors are allowed.
Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994 when a court said she had "deliberately and maliciously" hurt Muslim religious feelings with her Bengali-language novel 'Lajja', or Shame, in which she argued the Hindu minority in Bangladesh was poorly treated.
Nasreen was conferred the Prix Simone de Beauvoir by the French government for her feminist writings, but was not allowed by the Indian government to receive it from visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Leading Indian intellectuals, including Booker prize-winner Arundhati Roy, have criticised India's officially secular government for not doing more for Nasreen and in particular the communist leaders of West Bengal for not allowing her back.
The European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 1994. She lived in Europe before settling down in Kolkata.
Nasreen was campaigning on Twitter for the right to free speech and her accusations came in the wake of the enforcement branch of the Kolkata Police raiding a renowned publishing house's office and shop at College Street after it published a book 'Musalmander ki Karaniya' (What Muslims Should Do) written by senior police official Dr Nazrul Islam.
The raid happened despite no official order being issued for it. Dr Islam, in his book, has indirectly criticized Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's government's minority appeasement policies and vote-bank politics including announcing stipends for Imams, and more madrasas.
"Fight for Nazrul Islam's freedom of expression in West Bengal. Speak against book banning," Nasreen appealed to her supporters.
"My previous four tweets are only to prove that Sunil G is now lying in the media that he did not support the banning of 'Dwikhandito'," she said. "Sunil Gangopadhyay was the mastermind behind banning of my book 'Dwikhandita' and my banishment from West Bengal. Sunil Gangopadhyay asked former WB government to ban my book 'Dwikhandita'. Now he is speaking against book banning. WB govt banned Nazrul Islam's book today. Sunil Gangapadhay and other writers (are) speaking for free speech. The same people are against my free speech," alleged Nasreen in a sharp attack against Gangopadhyay.
'Dwikhandito', the third volume of Nasreen's autobiography, was banned by the Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee government for "hurting religious feelings of the people". Nasreen did not specify when the alleged incident took place or whether she had - then or now - lodged a police complaint. (With additional information from Reuters)