In a country where creative controversies too often turn into law and order fiascos, India’s refusal to renew Taslima Nasreen’s residence permit is understandable. And at a time when India’s relations with Bangladesh are on the upswing, the government may be viewing Nasreen as simply too much political liability.
In this trade-off between individual freedom and state interest, we seem to have forgotten that the chaos that results from a clash of ideas is essentially a manifestation of a democracy coming to terms with its pluralist image, and is a necessary phase in its evolution.
Throwing Nasreen out would be the easy solution. But it won’t put controversies to rest, nor would it soften our overblown reaction to them. Relations with Bangladesh notwithstanding, what India needs instead is an effective way of engaging with these issues. That would not only further its political capital as one of the true liberal democracies in the region, but also go a long way in building an inherent, mature framework of tolerance.