India is a Tolerant Country : Taslima Nasreen
Taslima Nasreen is a Bangladeshi author who is no stranger to controversy relating freedom of expression to religious sentiments and ‘intolerance’. She was forced to leave her native Bangladesh due to the fact that her novel ‘Lajja’ (1994) had angered fundamentalists, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments with her literary work.
In recent times, the question of whether India is a country of ‘tolerance or intolerance’ has been a topic on which many influential figures have voiced their opinions, often drawing great criticism and even political pressure within the country. Taslima Nasreen, too, has an opinion of her own, but one that involves insight and a great deal of rational thinking. Speaking with reference to the violence that took place in Malda, West Bengal, the author said, “I think India is a tolerant country, but some people are intolerant. In every society, there are some people who are intolerant.” Stating that if Hindu fundamentalists are spoken of, then Muslim fundamentalists, too, must be given equal attention, Nasreen said that freedom of speech and expression is necessary, even if it means offending certain people. She said, “I think we should have freedom of expression even if that offends some people. If we do not open our mouths, society will not evolve. Of course, we should fight against misogyny, religious fundamentalism and all kinds of evil forces only to make the society a better one.”
Taslima Nasreen’s opinion would certainly make sense to a great number of people, but was opposed strongly by BJP writer Sudheendra Kulkarni, who feels that freedom should be exercised with responsibility. According to him, “I think we should have freedom of expression even if that offends some people. If we do not open our mouths, society will not evolve. Of course, we should fight against misogyny, religious fundamentalism and all kinds of evil forces only to make the society a better one.” He feels that the country is ‘essentially tolerant’, and that the debate should not be politicized.
There will be many who agree with Nasreen, and many who will oppose her opinion and her stance on the topic. The fact of the matter still remains that she has an interesting take on the situation; definitely one worth taking into consideration.