Friday, August 21, 2009

Gujarat bans Jaswant’s book on Jinnah

Narendra Modi’s government of Gujarat has banned Jaswant’s book, Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence, because it believes that the book shows Sardar Vallabhai Patel in poor light. 

A notification issued by the Gujarat home department on Wednesday banned the book on the grounds that it tarnishes the image of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

"The book aims to tarnish the image of the architect of the country's unification and son of Gujarat. The state government has decided to ban the book in public interest," says a press release issued by the state government. 

When will we grow mature as a nation? We are already 62 years old but behave like a cry baby. Why do we get offended by anything anyone says? And why do we think we need to ban books at the first sign of hurt feelings?

We have been banning stuff indiscriminately and irresponsibly without even having a debate about it. India was the first country in the world to ban Satanic Verses – even the Muslim countries took some time. Many more books, including book detailing 1984 anti-Sikh riots, two books on Shivaji that purportedly showed the great leader of Maraths in negative light, many movies and plays are all banned at the slightest hint of hurt feelings. 

We need to ask ourselves if we are becoming a mature nation or an immature one. Should a government ban anything at all on its own, especially when it infringes upon the rights of common man? As a democracy, shouldn’t we have a debate about it, or pass a resolution in assembly or parliament, or allow courts to decide such issues, instead of elected leader taking unilateral decisions on behalf of entire government and people? 

What should be the right way of banning a book? 

First of all, banning books should be the last thing we should resort to. Books are not billboards that a person would look at involuntarily. Someone would read a book only because he wants to, it cannot be forced upon, and it would never be inadvertent either. An Indian citizen should be allowed to choose any book he wants to read. No government should think it is protecting its citizens from reading wrong stuff. 

Second, if a book has to be banned for some serious reason then we need to have an agreed method of doing it. Say, a person X is portrayed negatively by an author alleging that this X has done certain bad stuff. The person X can take that author to court if X thinks they are just lies. The court can then judge where these allegations are baseless, hypothetical, or based in evidence. Even if the content is found offensive, there are enough laws already in place to deal with such offensive writing. The court could compensate the person X with money, prosecute or fine the author, command that author to delete certain portions, or in the worst case ban the book completely.

But should an elected leader be given the unbridled powers to override the most fundamental right of all – the freedom of expression? 

Jaswant Singh rightly said:

The day we start banning books, we are banning thinking.


  1. I totally agree with the article, I definitely agree with the fact that government should not be given rights to ban any book just because it goes against their most conservative ideology. But I am also not sure if majority of indian readers are able to differentiate between personal opinions and real facts, most of the time I see that many take personal opinions of political leaders, movie celebrity as facts!!

  2. Hello Sujai,

    I came across your blog recently when I was searching for vedic science. Ever since, I have been following your blog. Banning books, unrealistic movies, argumentative debates are probably signs of our society thinking methodology. There are always positive and negative tone in any society, but we are restraining from one of the four essentials required for human life. That is Knowledge. We all learn breath, water, and food are very essential to live. But with knowledge an individual or society never advances.

    I have few more topic that I would like to discuss with you. Would it be possible to reach you directly?


  3. There is small typo in the last comment. *But with out knowledge an individual or society never advances.


  4. If I may play on Satre's - "If one knows the details of a victory, one will find it no different than a loss" to say "If one knows the details of the actions of a hero, one may find it no different than a villain"

    ~ Vinod

  5. Hi .. the ban is for political reasons and upcoming by elections. By banning (right or wrong) modi is showing that he is pro Sardar Patel. Otherwise come election time .. the Congress will portray him as anti Sardar (since he did not take steps to ban the book). So it was a politically clever and expedient move by Modi.

    Meanwhile check this out and ask yourself why there is no hue and cry over this book being banned.

    Book on Islam banned, author's house raided in Mumbai

  6. Didn't Congress workers in Gujarat agitate for the same - banning of this book?
    And if by not banning the book, riots happen in Gujarat and lives are lost, guess who will be writing a scathing post holding Modi responsible?


  7. And which party was in power when 'Satanic Verses' was banned? Perhaps that party needs to share a bigger blame for setting this trend that others have followed, instead of people like you blaming saffron every time. Just a thought.



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