Edward Snowden asked 21 nations for political asylum. He got nothing but rejection, proving once again that free speech is just a decorative item for most governments. India’s embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s request for asylum. His request was rejected within hours. Since then, there has been much discussion about India’s generosity over giving shelter to persecuted people—and so then, why not Snowden? India has in the past granted political asylum to Dalai Lama and many other rebels. Some even mention my name in the list.
I am not sure whether I should be considered a political refugee in India. I was thrown out of my country, Bangladesh, in 1994 and found myself landing in Europe. It was difficult for me to live in a place which has a totally different climate and culture from where I grew up. Since I knew I couldn’t return to my country, I wanted to come to India. But India kept her doors firmly shut. Towards the end of 1999, I was given permission to visit as a tourist.
I came to India not as a rebel Bangladeshi writer, but as a European citizen. I eagerly chose India’s state of West Bengal as my new home. But when I was physically attacked by Muslim fundamentalists, instead of taking action against them, the government kept me under house arrest. Not only that, I was repeatedly asked to leave the state and, preferably, the country. When a group of Muslim fundamentalists organised a protest against my stay in India, I was thrown out of Bengal, the state that had been my home for years. Finally, the central government took charge and put me in a safehouse. But there was pressure from the Centre too for me to leave the country. Now, I am given permission to live in India, but only in Delhi. My enemies are just a handful of corrupt, illiterate, ignorant Muslim fundamentalists but yet India cannot challenge them.