Priyanka Dasgupta | Feb 14, 2016,


Kolkata: It’s just been over five months since 22-year-old Shammi Haque started living in exile in Germany. An atheist blogger, Haque is now the target of fundamentalists in Bangladesh who are opposed to her idea of initiating the ‘Kiss of Love’ event in Dhaka. One of the political leaders has even organised a fundraiser to go to Germany and rape her.

Scared but not numb, Haque continues with her blogging and is confident her Valentine’s Day event will happen as per schedule in Bangladesh. What’s made her happy is that Jadavpur University students have sent solidarity letters and videos of how they had hosted a similar event in Kolkata.

Haque told TOI from an undisclosed location in Germany: “Bangladesh police might not have directly said couples will be arrested if they kiss in public. But over the years, I have seen how they have harassed couples even when they wanted to take a stroll in a park. Our ‘Kiss of Love’ event is a protest against such moves.”

Haque and her partner, Ananya Azad, who has received death threats claiming he will be eliminated in February this year, are trying their best to mobilise support for the event through their online presence. But neither of them can risk going to Dhaka now. Haque had wanted to go to Dhaka on Valentine’s Day. “But after I heard from people that a person has put a price of Rs 10 lakh on my head, I decided to change my plans,” she said.

The threats, Haque said, are increasing by the day. While earlier people would send her hate mails, today the hatred is more direct. “I was shocked when I heard that there is this event that has been planned to raise funds for buying an air ticket for someone who can be sent to Germany to rape me!” she added.

Azad, on his part, insisted that since Bangladesh is a “secular and democrat country”, everyone should have the right to say what he/she wants. “It’s just like everybody has the right to speak against anyone’s speech or place counterarguments. But nobody has the right to kill or harass or torture someone just because they speak against them or create new ideas,” Azad pointed out.

What’s intrigued both is that even so-called progressive people have lashed out against them arguing that kissing in public doesn’t go with the ethos of Bengali culture. But Azad has vehemently refuted that argument pointing out that it’s rather strange that his country has transformed itself a place where it isn’t okay to kiss in public but is perfectly fine when people kill a man or rape a woman in the name of religion! “Public kissing, for them, is more dangerous than lynching to death in broad daylight,” both said.Top of Form

Haque and Azad say the intolerance in Bangladesh towards opposing views goes against their worldview. But are they aware of the intolerance debate in India? Post the awards wapsi and counter arguments regarding the intolerance debate, what’s their take on this issue when it comes to the ground reality in India? To this, Haque said: “India isn’t a tolerant nation.” Total freedom of speech, she maintained, cannot be exercised in India either.