The government of India has extended by another six months the residential visa of controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.
But in an unedifying balancing act, it has also prevented France from conferring the prestigious Simone de Beauvoir award on Indian soil.
Ever since she was forced out of Calcutta in western India following violent protests from some Muslim fundamentalist groupings, Taslima Nasreen has been under virtual house arrest in the national capital of New Delhi, and in an undisclosed destination at that.
When contacted, Taslima said, "I am grateful to the Government of India for extending my visa. I consider India my own country.''
The writer's Indian visa was last extended on August 10 last year for six months. The visa extension might look heartening as the government has chosen to do so at a time when radical clerics are stridently demanding her deportation.
But then, not wanting to antagonize Muslim fringe groups altogether, the External Affairs ministry has quietly scuttled the Simone de Beauvoir award presentation ceremony planned by France during President Nicholas Sarkozy's forthcoming visit to India. He is arriving in New Delhi Friday.
Any such gesture now could trigger violence again, France has been told and it has given in, it is said.
Nasreen was named in January last for the Beauvoir award that is meant to honour outstanding contributions in the field of women's rights.
She is free to travel outside to receive the award though, the ministry reportedly says.
However, she would be wary of moving out, lest she was not permitted to return.
She should indeed be cheesed off by the Indian government's continued waffling. She has now lost a golden opportunity to come out of the soul-killing house arrest, even if temporarily.
She would not comment on the issue beyond saying that she would have been immensely pleased to receive the prestigious award in person from the French Preisdent.
But she reiterated she was tired of staying at the safe house and wanted to return to Kolkata, news agency PTI reports.
"I want an end to my state of internment here and go back to Kolkata which is my city," she said.
"'I don't know how long I will be in this state of internment but I want to tell everyone that I have not committed any crime," the writer stressed.
The writer said all her 30 books, including 'Dwikhandito' whose controversial pages had been deleted by her in the face of protests by Muslim radicals, would be on sale at the Kolkata Book Fair.
A fundamentalist organisation has already threatened of serious consequences if her books were allowed to go on sale at the fair.
Many have warned of the toll the traumatic events of the past few months on the mental health of the hunted writer.
Sometime ago she had said she was depressed over having to live in such humiliating conditions.
Taslima, who writes in her native language of Bengali, is a much hated figure in orthodox Muslim circles. Her allusions to the situation of women in Islam has enraged them.
She has been on the run for more than a decade now, and she took refuge in India only three years ago. Her visa is being periodically extended.
She prefers Calcutta because of language affinity. Before the catastrophic partition in 1947 on communal lines, Bangladesh was part of the Bengali-speaking region of India.
The issue has become a hot potato for the Indian government. It doesn't want to raise the hackles of the Islamic lobby, but is also hesitant to deport her. Besides it is horrified at the thought of a possible assassination attempt on her on Indian soil. In the circumstances it has chosen to keep her secreted somewhere in the national capital.