“Let another name for Religion be Humanism”.
I was acquainted with the works and ideologies of Taslima Nasreen as I read her highly controversial novel named “Lajja”. The name directly translates to the word “shame” which is indeed the residual feeling that is filtered out of the sieve of religious intolerance. The book is a “savage indictment of religious extremism and man’s inhumanity to man”. I would not be wrong in saying that the sexual violence as seen in the present scenario is an indictment of the modern society. The violence portrayed in her book was on account of differences in religious beliefs and merely the place of worship. Indeed it is shameful that man will turn against his fellow brothers on the pretext of trivial differences of caste, creed, sex, religion and as witnessed in the near past, the sexual orientation. The book is a treatise on communalism which is a demon still in possession of our society.
Taslima Nasreen a poet, novelist and columnist, originally from Bangladesh, has lived in exile since 1994. She voices her opinion in the form of an activist for secular humanism.
Feminist opinions such as freedom of thought, equality, and human rights for women are beliefs that she stands for. Her novels including the controversial Lajja along with a large number of poems attracted much attention and criticism owing to their feminist ideas and hence were widely critiqued. On receiving threats from fundamentalist groups she had to flee her motherland and continues to live in exile. She has been subjected to allegations and negative criticism from many corners. In spite of many accusations of having achieved fame owing to her controversial content, she defended herself and expressed her opinions without fear. Nasreen has been awarded with a number of prestigious international awards in recognition of her spirit of brotherhood, uncompromising strength to stand for freedom of expression of women. In much the recent past, she was supported, respected and defended by prominent personalities such as the author Mahasweta Devi, Bibhas Chakrabarty, a famous theatre director , the poet Joy Goswami, among many others.she was defended in India by many well-known authors, including Arundhati Roy, Girish Karnad who petitioned to the Indian government for granting her the citizenship of India.
The book portrays the Dutta family, Sudhamoy, Kironmoyee and their two children, an elder son and a younger daughter, being a part of the small Hindu community residing in Bangladesh. As the novel progresses, we see the Dutta’s terrorized and victimized by the Muslim fundamentalists. The motif is that of alternating attacks by the two communities so as to seek revenge on the other. This leads to many Hindus being compelled to flee from Bangladesh, leaving behind their cattle, ancestral house, jobs, stability of their lives, and being left with nothing but with tags of being refugees who find their way into India. They are deprived of their rights and freedom. We see the naïve optimism and beliefs of Sudhamoy as he refuses to leave his hometown behind and escape to a faraway land of India. The 1992 incident of the Babri Majid located at Ayodhya in India being heinously demolished by an enraged mob of Hindu fundamentalists has been mentioned in the book. The aftermath of this act is acutely felt in Bangladesh. The repercussions are severe. Muslims have been emotionally and religiously bruised and hence this leads to a series of events. Muslims seek out those belonging to the Hindu community and resort to murder and arson. The women and girls, who are Hindu, are kidnapped from their homes and even raped. Hindu houses are set to fire. Schools are disrupted. Shops are looted. The country of Bangladesh is seized by brutal nightmarish acts of violence and torture. The riot that breaks out cannot be bridled by the laws or logic. The book has been banned in Bangladesh owing to its much debated subject matter and still continues to stand strong in the face of rising communalism. It propagates the spirit and strength of feelings of brotherhood and harmony in the society. Exceedingly dark, grim and melancholic, the tale blatantly exposes the heartless fanaticism and thirst for blood of humanity.
We are in the grip of continuous human condemnation and evident human discrimination. This social issue should be perceived from the global perspective. Not only should human rights of equality, freedom, rights to existence be kept in mind and practised but basic respect for other communities should be upheld. Every human being deserves to have peace and happiness irrespective of the caste, religious bent of mind, creed, and gender. Development shall be achieved only if society as a complete entity renounces the individualistic approaches and strives and functions as a whole for betterment. This strikes the keynote of equality and why it is important. All communities have a role to play. India is a secular country and hence all communities and religious sects should co-exist in harmony. The influence of religion is perceived as trivial when compared to the influence of man as a whole. We are a nation and we should discard religious differences and establish a country based on harmony and peace.
Undoubtedly, Humanity is the greatest religion.