01/24/2008, 00.00
INDIA – FRANCE
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Sarkozy not to present award to Nasrin, still a target of Islamic fundamentalism

by Nirmala Carvalho
New Delhi tells Paris not to present the Bangladeshi writer with the Simone de Beauvoir Award on Indian soil. For years she has been the target of Islamic fundamentalists for her action on behalf of women.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The government of India has prevented France from honouring Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin with a prestigious literary award. Ms Nasrin, who is a refugee in India, is at centre of a controversy with Muslims and has been targeted by Islamic fundamentalists for her work on behalf of women.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is on an official visit to New Delhi for the celebrations of the founding of the Indian Republic, was supposed to personally present the prize to the writer.

The Simone de Beauvoir Award for Ms Nasrin was announced on 9 January and was supposed to be presented on Beauvoir’s 100th birth anniversary. But the ceremony was postponed to a date to be decided.

“We have no objections to the award being given to her anywhere else in the world”, an anonymous French official said.

In August of last year the writer was attacked by a mob as she came out of the press club in Hyderabad where she attended the launching of the Telugu edition of one of her novels, Shodh (Getting Even).

After a writing an editorial article in favour of women’s rights that was published in a weekly paper an Indian Muslim group put a price on her head worth half a million rupees.

Nasrin, 46, a medical doctor by training, left her native country in the 1990s and fled to Europe after a fatwa or religious edict was issued against another of her novels, Lajja (Shame). Her books are banned in Bangladesh.

For the past three years she has found refuge in India and lives in Kolkata, which she considers her second home.

She has also applied for Indian citizenship, a request that was turned under pressures from Indian Muslim groups.

Her current visa is valid till 17 February of this year and her future remains uncertain after that.

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