A Statement from Mukto-mona :
Stop Muzzling Taslima Nasrin a la Bangladeshi style
Mukto-Mona, an assembly of freethinkers mostly from Bengali descent in the Internet, strongly expresses its deep concern over the recent verdict of a magisterial court of Gopalganj district that pronounced one year imprisonment on humanist writer Ms. Taslima Nasrin in a case where she was charged with hurting religious sentiments of followers of Islam through her writings. The suddenness of the court verdict surprised most freedom-loving Bengalis. And worst of all, no attorney had represented Ms. Taslima Nasrin at the court. Is it not a violation of natural justice? As she was tried in absentia, should not the court provide her with a defence councillor?
Ms. Taslima Nasrin is a prisoner of conscience. Beginning from her childhood, she felt pains of repression against our womenfolk and saw injustice and incongruities of our repressive society in Bangladesh. Her feelings and observations were reflected in her columns and other writings.
When she saw that post Babri Mosque riot directed against a weaker section of our citizens practicing a different religion in southern districts of Bangladesh was not admitted by the then government and nor was it severely condemned by our society, she erupted like a volcano. She protested against this crime against humanity in her own style by writing a most debatable novel ‘Lajja’ (Shame) depicting the injured feelings of Hindu minorities - their pains and sufferings. She was criticized by the conservatives as well as some liberals that ‘Lajja’ would destroy the image of Bangladesh as a country of communal harmony abroad, on the other hand, a section of our civil society criticized her book as saying it has no or little literary value. No one seem to appreciate the well intended contents of the book picturing pains, agony, silent crying and sufferings of a section of our population practicing a different faith. Her cry for justice reverberated in her book.
Instantly, she became the target of Islamic fundamentalists and conservatives. The silent supporters of hers and the progressive elements of our society felt helpless against the violent reaction of hand full of ‘Mullahs’. A prize for head was fixed and death penalty was pronounced by them. Elected government(s) of Bangladesh failed to provide adequate safety of life of a popular columnist, poet and a novelist. Her life became vulnerable in Bangladesh- she was forced to go to exile.
Throughout the period of her unhappy exile from Bangladesh, Dr. Taslima Nasrin constantly spoke of her love for her homeland and her people, and of her desire to return to her homeland. For a brief period, she returned to Bangladesh in 1998 under difficult circumstances, just to be near her dying mother. Even at that time of sorrow, her life was made miserable by the fundamentalists. After her mother's demise, she had to return to Europe.
While working with her in many of our humanistic activities, ‘Mukto-mona’ found in her a true representative of Bengali culture. Our forum is proud to count Dr. Nasrin among its members, and will be unstinting in its efforts to defend this courageous champion of human rights.
Now by the verdict of a magistrate from Goplaganj, Bangladesh, Ms. Taslima Nasrin's fate is sealed again unless she is allowed to appeal to the High Court in absentia.
But it has raised one important question in the minds of many freethinkers - is the judiciary in Bangladesh really free? Can it, particularly at the lower level, work or allowed to work independently? We refer to the recent debate going on between the government and Supreme Court regarding independency of judiciary from executive control. There are many instances where justice have been either delayed or denied, and our highest judiciary system knows it- we do not have to remind them. There are many instances where judgement of the courts were not appreciated by a large section of common mass- the case of ETV is just one example.
The other day, retired chief justice Mostafa Kamal unequivocally remarked in a seminar on ‘Administration of law and judiciary of Bangladesh’ (Sangbad, 19. 10. 02) that no ‘judicial trial’ would get internal or universal acceptability unless the entire judiciary system were ‘made free and independent’. Barrister Rafiqul Haque, retired attorney general said ‘Our judiciary has been polluted by political as well as executive interferences.’ These remarks led to many common citizens to question ‘do we rally get true justice or mockery of justice in Bangladesh ‘?
We, members of the Mukto-Mona forum appeal to the conscience of all freedom-loving people of the world to express our concern over the verdict meted out by the court of a magistrate in Bangladesh where the humanist writer Ms. Taslima Nasrin was "convicted" in a flimsy case of hurting religious sentiments – which could not be proved in a country of over 100 million people, and to urge upon Bangladesh government to withdraw all such cases against Ms Nasrin. She exercised her inalienable right -- freedom of speech -- to speak her mind.
We fervently appeal to the judiciary of Bangladesh to annul the verdict against Ms. Taslima Nasrin [an emblem of honor for Bangladesh, achieving the Ananda Puroshkar, India, 1994; Kurt Tukholsky Prize, Sweden, 1994; Feminist of the Year, USA, 1994; Human Rights Award from the French government, 1994; Edit de Nantes award, France, 1994; Monismanien Prize, Sweden, 1995; Sakharov prize for freedom of thought from EU, 1995; Honorary Doctorate from Gent University, Belgium, 1995; International Humanist award from IHEU, 1996; Ananda Puroshkar (second time), India, 2000; the Erwin Fischer Award, Germany, 2002 etc.] since she was not provided by the court with adequate defence facilities or a defence councillor - to which she was legally entitled. Therefore, not only the court verdict be annulled, the case against the writer should also be withdrawn unequivocally right away.
We, the members of Mukto-mona urge upon the government of Bangladesh to allow Ms. Taslima Nasrin to return to Bangladesh in a congenial environment where she can live freely without fear. We demand to the government to create such an atmosphere for all freedom loving citizens. The government must also provide safety for the writer and her immediate family.
Finally, the government should foster freethinking and defend the article of free speech as provided by the constitution of the land. To show that the government is serious about instituting the free speech clause of the constitution, all the orders for banning books in Bangladesh including the ones written by Ms. Taslima Nasrin should be rescinded right away.What we want to see ultimately is the re-institution of secularism in our motherland. The country for sure was established at the high cost of a supreme sacrifice by the 3 million lives in 1971 to foster secularism, egalitarianism, and democracy in the land of ours. Let us all work for that cherished goal.
Letter of support for Ms. Taslima Nasrin from Mukto-mona members:
What can be done now?
Mukto-mona encourages to build international public opinion to appeal to the judiciary of Bangladesh to annul the recent verdict against Ms. Taslima Nasrin. You are requested to do everything possible to support the efforts of Mukto-mona in this issue.
We request you to write letters appealing to the Bangladesh Government ( firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com ) in the format kept in our web-site or in similar lines with copy to Mukto-mona Moderator [ firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com ] .
The statement "Stop Muzzling Taslima Nasrin a la Bangladeshi style" is created by the members of Advisory board of Mukto-mona. Please circulate the statement as many places as possible.
Mukto-mona ( www.mukto-mona.com )
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