But what do you mean by secularism?

My dear friend Taslima showed up at the Jaipur Literary Festival on Monday, where the Times of India reported she woke things up.

Till Monday, the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) was a largely tame affair. And then exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin made an impromptu appearance on the last day, immediately drawing protesting Muslim groups outside the venue.

Adding fuel to fire, the controversial author pledged her firm support for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and underscored its importance in ensuring gender equality.

Nasrin questioned the secularism of Indian state which was sheltering fanatics who issued fatwas and set a prize for her head.

“Many Muslims do not want UCC but it’s urgently necessary for women’s rights,” said Nasrin, questioning why the ‘secular’ people of India were against UCC.

The UCC is the same idea as One Law For All: the law should be secular, and the same for everyone, with equal rights for everyone, not special non-rights for women and other outsiders.

The controversial writer slammed West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee for paying lip-service to secularism. She alleged that Banerjee was in cahoots with the Kolkata-based Imam Syed Noor-ur-Rehman Barkati, who has issued a fatwa against her.

“We proudly say this country is secular. But what do you mean by secularism? Why do you encourage Muslim fanatics to issue fatwas against people? For Muslim votes, you throw secular people out of the country and encourage Muslim fanatics who don’t believe in democracy and human rights,” said Nasrin.

This session of the ‘controversial’ writer was not scheduled at the JLF. Many in the audience were surprised to see Nasrin on the dais. She argued that fundamentalism cannot be eradicated by killing people or punishing people but only through secular education.

Rejecting the idea of nationalism, Nasrin maintained her belief in freedom and one world. “I don’t believe in nationalism. I believe in humanism, rationalism, rights, freedom and one passport and one world,” added Nasrin.

So of course there were the usual protests.

JAIPUR: Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, who participated in a session at the JLF on Monday, faced the ire of Muslim groups who protested outside the Diggi Palace venue.

Representatives of various organisations met the organisers of JLF and demanded that they should not invite ‘controversial’ writers such as Nasrin and Salman Rushdie in future.

At a closed door meeting, organiser Sanjoy K Roy has apparently assured them that they would be careful from next year.

They “demanded” – as if they had a right to keep Taslima and Salman out.

Since the picture of Nasrin was carried by some newspapers, Muslim groups held a meeting at Muslim Musafirkhana early in the day to demand the cancellation of the event.

On what grounds? It’s a literary festival, not a religious event. It’s nothing to do with “Muslim groups” so why are they demanding a veto?

As the news spread, representatives belonging to different socio-religious groups and political parties raised slogans and held a protest right outside the venue. Though the police did intervene, the protesters refused to back out.

Roy then invited them for a dialogue, which lasted for about 45 minutes. But he failed to convince them despite offering them a session next year on ‘why Taslima Nasrin and Salman Rushdie should not be called for the lit fest’. However, the groups were adamant and sought assurance on not inviting these two writers ever to the fest. They were later told that their sentiments would be considered while planning the sessions in future.

Which rather proves Taslima’s point, doesn’t it.

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