While terming the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) "very good" and "generous", Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen on Friday said that the law should make an exception for Muslim "free-thinkers, feminists, and secularists" from the neighbouring countries. "It is nice to hear the religious persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will get citizenship (of India). It is a very good idea and very generous one.
"But I think that there are people like me from the Muslim community, free thinkers and atheists, who too are persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and they too should have the right to live in India," said the author-in-exile.
Nasreen was speaking here on the second day of the Kerala Literature festival during a session titled "In Exile: A writer's Journey".
The CAA, which was passed in the Parliament on December 11 last year, grants citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities -- Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians -- from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.
To buttress her point, she gave the example of Muslim "atheists bloggers" who were hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants in Bangldesh a few years ago.
"Many of these bloggers, in a bid to save their lives, left for Europe or America, why cannot they come to India? India today needs more free thinker, secularist, feminist from the Muslim community," said Nasreen, who will come out with her new book, "Shameless", a sequel to her bestelling book "Lajja", in April.
Nasreen had to leave Bangladesh in 1994 in the wake of death threat by fundamentalist outfits for her alleged anti-Islamic views. Since then she has been living in exile.
Though terming the nationwide protest against CAA as a "wonderful" thing, she also took on the protestors for allowing "Muslim fundamenatalists" to be part of it.
The 57-year-old author told the audience that fundamentalism -- be it from majority or minority community -- is equally bad and must be condemned.
"Are these Muslim fundamentalists secular? Do they believe in secularism? No. So they (protestors of CAA) should separate out these people. The fundamentalists from the minority community and the majority community are the same. Because they both are against progressive society and equality for women," she added.
She also argued that the conflict that India is facing right now is neither new and nor between "Hinduism and Islam".
"Of course, there is a conflict in India now. But the conflict is not between Hinduism and Islam, it is between religious fundamentalism and secularism, modernism and anti-modernism, logical mind and irrational blind faith, innovation and tradition, humanism and barbarism... this is not new and it is everywhere in the world," she explained.
Presently living in New Delhi on a residence permit since 2004, the author feels at home in the country and has never felt like a "foreigner" here.
"People tell me that you are Bangladeshi, you are a foreigner but I never feel like a foreigner here in India. Because my colour is like you, I speak in one of the Indian languages and our root is the same. I would live in india and India only as long as I can," she said.
Nasreen, on many occasions, had expressed her wish to live in India permanently, especially in Kolkata. The writer had to leave Kolkata in 2007 following violent street protests by a section of Muslims against her works.
Historians such as Ramachandra Guha, William Dalrymple, novelists like Benyamin, Namita Gokhale, Chetan Bhagat and journalists Karan Thapar and Rajdeep Sardesai are among the many other writers who will be attending the four-day festival.
The focus theme of KLF 2020 is environment and climate change.