BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 12:28 GMT
Taslima Nasreen: Controversy's child
Taslima Nasreen
Ms Nasreen faced death threats in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen has been forced to leave her adopted city of Calcutta in India after riots by Muslims there. Her writings have made her a controversial figure for more than a decade.

The doctor-turned-writer first made a name for herself with her feisty newspaper columns, picking up a prestigious Bengali literary award in India for her book, Nirbachito Kolam (Selected Columns) in 1992.

She has since written nearly 30 books of poetry, essays, novels and short stories in her native Bengali language, mostly in exile.

Ms Nasreen fled her home country Bangladesh in 1995 after Muslim extremists called for her death following her most controversial book, "Lajja" (Shame).

The book was banned for offending Muslim religious sentiments.

Come what may, I will never be silenced
Taslima Nasreen

She was reported to have told an Indian newspaper that Islamic religious edicts should be changed. Her comments enraged some militant Muslim Islamic groups.

Falling foul

They pronounced a death sentence on the writer and offered $2,000 to anyone who killed her.

For a few months, Ms Nasreen lived under heavy security at her apartment in the capital, Dhaka, before leaving the country for Sweden.

A demonstration against Taslima Nasreen in Dhaka in 1998
Muslim groups feel that her writings ridicule Islam

She returned to Bangladesh in 1998 to visit her ailing mother and faced renewed threats from extremist Islamic activists.

After her mother's death, Ms Nasreen went to live in Paris.

In 1999, the Bangladeshi government banned her book, My Childhood, saying it could hurt the people's religious sentiments.

Earlier that year, the government disapproved of a poem she wrote in her mother's memory in an Indian magazine, and stopped imports of the issue carrying the poem.

And in 2002, the authorities in Bangladesh banned her newly published novel Wild Wind - a sequel to My Girlhood - saying that the book could anger the country's Muslim majority and lead to religious tensions.

It was the third time in a decade that one of Ms Nasreen's works had fallen foul of the country's laws.

'Untenable' ban

A magistrate's court in Bangladesh even gave her a one-year prison sentence on a charge of writing derogatory comments about Islam in her books.

"The political parties [in Bangladesh] use religion for their own interests and whenever they find any criticism about religion, they can't tolerate it, so they ban the book," she told the BBC Bengali Service in August 2002.

Even in India, Ms Nasreen's work was banned after Muslim groups protested.

In 2003, her autobiography "Dwikhondito" (Split into two), was banned by the Communist government in West Bengal state where a quarter of the population is Muslim.

Taslima Nasreen in Calcutta
Ms Nasreen has said she wants to continue living in Calcutta

Two years later, a court in West Bengal lifted the ban saying it was "unjustified and untenable".

In September 2005, she was given a one-year Indian visa and permission to stay in Calcutta. Since then she has been living in the city after getting her visa extended.

Ms Nasreen has always said she wants to make Calcutta, capital of West Bengal state, her home even though the European Union has offered her refuge.

"East [Bengal] has already closed the doors to me... so I want to stay in West Bengal where I feel at home," she said once. East Bengal covered what is now Bangladesh.

Though many Indian writers have criticised the quality of Ms Nasreen's work, they have consistently supported her efforts at staying on in the country.

In April 2005, a group of Bengali writers, poets and intellectuals openly supported her plea for Indian citizenship.

"Like us, she is a Bengali, and she only writes in Bengali. She cannot enter Bangladesh, so her only option is to live amongst Bengalis in Calcutta if she has to exist as a writer of some consequence," said writer Shib Narain Ray.

That might become difficult with the recent riots in Calcutta with a fringe Muslim group saying that she should leave the city.

Ms Nasreen has been threatened by Muslim groups outside Bengal too.

In August, Muslim protesters attacked her during a book launch in Andhra Pradesh state in southern India.

Ms Nasreen, who backed into a corner, said the attack was barbaric but pledged she would not be cowed.

Calcutta calm after day of riots
22 Nov 07 |  South Asia
Army deployed after Calcutta riot
21 Nov 07 |  South Asia
Farmers and Marxists at loggerheads
16 Mar 07 |  South Asia
Violence marks Bengal shutdown
08 Jan 07 |  South Asia
Taslima Nasreen gets Indian visa
01 Sep 05 |  South Asia
'Bengal Maoists' target car plant
04 Dec 06 |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific