Asylum or Immigration?

The strange case of Taslima Nasreen

She has been rewarded with a ban on her books, a fatwa calling for her death, and a jail term for writing derogatory things about Islam. Irate Muslims have burnt her effigies both in Dhaka, her hometown in Bangladesh and in Kolkata, her ‘second home’, where she wants to reside.

She has now written to the Indian home minister, asking for citizenship or a residency permit, whichever is possible. But she says, she is not seeking political asylum.

India must remain open to victims of cultural illiberalism and persecution — but it must also be clear about the line between political asylum and mere immigration. Taslima Nasreen has every reason to fear for her life, liberty and well-being in Bangladesh — there is little to refuse her asylum on these grounds. But if she does not intend to seek asylum then she must not be treated any differently from any other person seeking Indian citizenship or residency.

4 thoughts on “Asylum or Immigration?”

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  2. I wonder if India has a “points system” like the UK or Canada. Even in the US if you are regarded as an outstanding achiever in your particular field, and it is felt you can contribute to the country because of that, you are given preference. Now would Taslima qualify under any such schemes?

  3. In the U.S. system, the idea that everyone gets treated the same way in immigration systems, even allowing for the hierarchical rules, is a myth. Ever heard of expedited visas for business travelers? Government officials taking on pity cases for citizenship to look good? Profiling and discrimination on religion, politics, ethnicity, or race as a matter of policy? The “high achiever” rewards are just another way for wealthy countries to selectively drain talent and resources from poorer societies.

    I imagine, given the lesser levels of government transparency in India (although maybe that’s changing too), that powerful and/or desirable and/or economically valuable people would be allowed to immigrate to India with more ease as well. To say that she “should not” be treated any differently is nice, and I agree with that sentiment, alebit probably from a different perspective than the post– I think migrants in general should be treated well and allowed to make their way to more dominant economies. Individual autonomy and all that. However, it’s a sign of a healthy culture to tolerate cosmopolitanisma and to welcome people from different places to come and joust intellectually and economically.

    However, I think it’s a pipe dream to imagine that Taslima Nasrin won’t be treated better, in one way or another, than the average Bangladeshi seeking citizenship in India. BTW, I have to add on that I think Lajja is an unreadable book, even if she wrote it in 7 days.

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