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After Muslim protests, Kolkata Book Fair cancels Taslima Nasrin book launch

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Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) Author Taslima Nasrin (l.) said she was surprised there was not more of an outcry in Kolkata over the cancellation.

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After receiving threats, the Kolkata Book Fair canceled the launch of Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin’s new autobiography "Nirbasan," which had been scheduled to debut at the fair this week.

Muslim leaders had protested her appearance there because of one of Nasrin’s previous books, titled “Lajja” (translated to “Shame”), which has been viewed by some of the Muslim faith as offensive.

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Tridib Chatterjee, the secretary for the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which is in charge of the Kolkata Book Fair, told The New York Times that the launch was canceled not only because of threats received, but because the AC Hall, the space where the launch was to take place, was not prepared.

 “We took the decision to cancel the book launch in the larger interests of the people,” Chatterjee told The New York Times. “We cannot jeopardize the safety and security of thousands of visitors to the book fair.”

The launch then took place at the stall of the People’s Book Society, the publishing company that was releasing Nasrin’s new book, though not in connection with the fair's organizers. Other authors at the book fair, including writer Nabarun Bhattacharya, launched the book at the stall unofficially. A rally occurred later at the fair, protesting the threats against Nasrin.

Nasrin was forced to flee her home country of Bangladesh in 1994 after the release of "Lajja" provoked attacks and death threats. She lived in Europe and North America for some time before moving to Kolkata, but after being attacked again and becoming the subject of riots due to a fatwa against her in the city, she moved to New Delhi, and then left India for Sweden after she said some members of the police force told her to leave the country.

Nasreen said she was taken aback that the cancellation had not prompted more outrage from the city’s residents.

“Are Kolkatans becoming cowards?” she asked the Times of India.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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