Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Unban banned books

Good that Gujarat High Court has reversed the state government's decision on ban on Jaswant’s book on Jinnah [Related Post]. But India has been banning books for a long time. What about the books that have been banned in the past? Who is going to unban them?

So far, more than 54 books have been banned by various Indian governments. India has a bad track record of generously misusing its state powers in taking unilateral decisions to ban books it didn’t like or it didn’t understand. India was the first country in the world to ban Satanic Verses, even before anybody read it, and even before any Islamic country decided to ban it. India bans books, plays and movies at the throw of a hat without debate, discussion or reason. 

India has to grow up. One of the sad outcomes of that growing up is to deal with things that are unpleasant. We have to live with the fact that there are homosexuals and lesbians and they have equal rights, just like you and me. We have to live with the fact that people think differently, behave differently, eat differently and dress differently. They go to different places of worship while some don’t worship at all. Some people write books that you may not want to read but that does not mean you have a right to stop him from writing that book or expressing that opinion. And some people paint things that you don’t understand. 

We don’t need to force people into conform to our set of standards, morals and ethics, our set of religious beliefs, superstitions and rituals, our set of dress codes, and our habits of eating. As a nation we need to grow up to live and let live. 

The high court in its ruling said:

Lack of opinion means lack of thinking; lack of thinking means lack of understanding. The state is dealing with the fundamental rights of its citizens and, therefore, a great amount of caution, prudence and care is expected.

Doesn’t that apply to all the books banned previously? Isn’t it a great time to unban all the books we have banned to show that we have grown by a day?

Here’s a list of banned books as compiled by the source listed above. Note that there are many books related to criticism of Kashmir or Indian foreign policy, sex, criticism of Hinduism, criticism of Shivaji, and even books concerning Gandhi and Nehru. 

• Scented Garden (Anthropology of sex life in the Levant) by Bernhard Stern; translated by David Berger. Banned: August 18, 1945
• Dark Urge by Robert W. Taylor. Banned: Dec 29, 1955
• The Jewel in the Lotus (A Historical Survey of the Sexual Culture of the East). Banned: July 20, 1968
• The Face of Mother India by Katherine Mayo. Banned: January 18, 1936
• Old Soldier Sahib by Private Frank Richards (memoirs of a British soldier serving in India whose book Old Soldiers Never Die has been described as ‘‘probably the best account of the Great War as seen through the eyes of a private soldier.’’) Banned: Aug 22, 1936
• The Heart of India by Alexander Campbell. Banned: March 11, 1959
• The Evolution of the British Empire and Commonwealth from the American Revolution by Alfred Le Ray Burt. Banned: Aug 9, 1969
• A Struggle between Two Lines over the Question of How to Deal with US Imperialism by Fan Asid-Chu, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1965. Banned: Dec 6, 1969
• Behind the Iron Curtain in Kashmir: Neutral Opinion (author not mentioned). Banned: Aug 27, 1949
• American Military Aid to Pakistan (its full implications) by Salahuddin Ahmad. Banned: July 31, 1954
• Captive Kashmir by Aziz Beg. Banned: April 19, 1958
• India Independent by Charles Bettelheim. Banned: May 15, 1976
• Hindu Heaven by Max Wylie. Banned: April 28, 1934
• The Land of the Lingam by Arthur Miles. Banned: Oct 2, 1937
• What Has Religion Done for Mankind, Watch-tower Bible and Tract Society, New York. Banned: Feb 26, 1955
• The Ramayana by Aubrey Menen. Banned: Sept 29, 1956
• Nine Hours to Rama by Stanley Wolpert. Banned: Sept 1, 1962
• Nehru, A Political Biography by Michael Edwards. Banned: Dec 13, 1975
• Who Killed Gandhi by Lourenco De Sadvandor. Banned: Dec 29, 1979


  1. "We have a grown by a day?" LOL.. I don't think Sujai.. The only thing that has grown over the years, is our hypocrisy and intolerance...

    I am even afraid to utter the words "Indian culture", lest some fanatic with attack me, for I was wearing a jeans or sporting short hair..


  2. Free Speech, as exercised by our media and western-educated elite is an abomination.

    Free Speech, with a sense of responsibility to society, should always be the norm.

    Now, the difficulty crops up in defining the "responsibility"

  3. It may be of interest to know that the person on whose recomendation the GOI banned 'Satanic Verses' in India is none other than the beloved liberal writer Khushwant Singh.

    Given the fact that we had riots in Kashmir in which several people died over the Danish cartoons, I think we need to have a sensible approach with regards to free speech. We cannot blindly copy the West since our society is not the same.

    We have had a history of rioting over trivial issues, and we need not pour more fuel into the fire.

  4. To add few more:

    1. Understanding Islam Through Hadis by Ram Swarup
    2. Soft Target : The real story behind the Air India disaster by Brian McAndrew and Zuhair Kashmeri
    3. Unarmed Victory by Russell, Bertrand.
    4. Rangila Rasul by Pt. M. A. Chamupati.
    5. The Polyester Prince: The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani by Hamish McDonald.

    I have book 5 and 4 , if any one interested can mail me.

  5. Some more :

    1. “Mysterious India” by Moki Singh published by Stanley Paul and Company Ltd., London
    2. “BHUPAT SINGH’ (a tale of adventure of well-known outlaw of Saurashtra) written by Kaluwank Ravatwank
    3. “Early Islam” by Desmond Steward
    4. R.V. Bhasin's - Islam -a concept of political world invasion

  6. @ruSH.Me

    Sometime i feel people don't see themselves in mirror before wrting anything ...

    "We have a grown by a day?" LOL.. I don't think Sujai.. The only thing that has grown over the years, is our hypocrisy and intolerance...

    [ so should i some up that you are more hypocrist and intolerable then your parents... But i think it should be like new generation are less hypocrist and has more tolerance??]

    I am even afraid to utter the words "Indian culture", lest some fanatic with attack me, for I was wearing a jeans or sporting short hair..

    [ Are u really living in india ???? coz in my city (Indore) i see lot of gals roaming in jeans and not attacked by anyone , my mom has short hairs does she offend the Indian culture ... and where is it written that wearing jeans and short hairs are anti indian culture ???]

    See its simple things are bad every where , no where its perfect ... but as u may have watched "Rang de basanti" society , people and above all nation is made perfect. We are still trying to be in line with the perfection . But negative attitude and thoughts will lead no where

    Books are banned in each and every nation , reasons are different , In india reasons are more religious and political but then after all its our part we have to do something about it.

  7. @Vishi

    Indore is just a part of India, and I do know it well, my family lives there. You might have forgotten about the recent riots that took place there..

    In my response, we indicates Indians, not just the newer generation. I guess pre-independence was the best time, when the Hindu-Muslin divide was calmly bridged.. Where is that now a days? The Miraj riots show, just how well we take a depiction or even a banner..

    My boyfriend(whom I am going to marry this month) and me were getting down from our apartment building holding hands. A neighbor created a big fuss, about decency and Indian Culture..

    I guess you will know it, when you actually see it with your eyes.. By the way, why you commented on my comment.. Did you get offended on the "Hypocrisy" part?

    I can reply to your "mirror", but since I don't know you, I will refrain..

  8. @ruSh.me

    sorry if u feel offended , but i know its my mistake must have not pin pointed at you .. really sorry for that ...

    But yeah i too get offended when people talk about hypocrisy and tolerance in indian concept, it some how really pinch me deep in my heart. You should feel evavluated that u are born and brought up in this culture and togetherness.

    some times you really have to ignore some people and things. if u start taking note of everything what people say and fell u will not be able to live any where ...right ???

    Without knowing history perfect its hard for me to comment on something like "I guess pre-independence was the best time, when the Hindu-Muslin divide was calmly bridged" coz i don't think it happened then also ... to some up few i will give some examples:

    1917, September-October: Massive attacks on Muslims by Hindu crowds of up to 50,000, in some 150 villages in the Shahabad, Gaya and Patna districts of Bihar. The immediate issue was cow protection, The number of dead is unknown but is believed to be considerable (it is officially estimated at 41, but this figure is recognized as rather low) *** (Pandey, 1983).

    1921, October 25: Northern Kerala Muslims, mostly peasants and agricultural laborers, known as Moplahs (Mapillai), rose against British rule and local Hindu landlords. Some landlords were killed by the insurgents, who also proceeded to forcibly convert some Hindus to Islam. . As a consequence, 246 were killed including many women and children, who were not active rebels*** (Wood, 1987:210).

    1924, September: In Kohat, an area with an overwhelming Muslim majority (90%), located in the Northwest Frontier Province, a Muslim crowd attacked the local Hindu population, resulting in 155 dead*** (Sarkar, 1983:233).

    1928, February: Hindu-Muslim riots in Bombay City killed 149 and injured 739*** (“Notes on Hindu-Muslim Riots in Bombay/Sind”).

  9. continue ..

    1931, March: A Congress-inspired call for a work stoppage (hartal), in honor of a revolutionary who had been hanged by the British, started a major Hindu-Muslim riot in Cawnpore (Kanpur), which left 400 dead and 1,200 injured*** (Brass, 1997: 209-210).

    1932, May: Widespread Hindu-Muslim riots in Bombay City. 217 persons were killed and 2,569 injured*** (“Notes on Hindu-Muslim Riots in Bombay/Sind”).

    1946, August 16-19: Great Calcutta Killing. 5,000 people lost their lives.

    1946, September: Sporadic violence in Bombay. 320 people were killed (Sarkar, 1983:433).

    1946, October: Attacks on Hindus by Muslim crowds in Noakhali and Tippera districts in Southeastern Bengal. 300 people were killed, and many were forcibly conversted to Islam (Sarkar, 1983:433).

    1946, October 27-November 6: Massive anti-Muslim violence in Bihar by Hindu crowds in “retaliation” against Noakhali. 7,000-8,000 persons were killed in a few days. (Tuker, 1950:182).

    1946, November: Hindu pilgrims attacked Muslims at Garmukteswar in the United Provinces. Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an extremist Hindu organization, were involved. 1,000 people lost their lives (Sarkar, 1983:434).

    1947, March: Muslim crowds and Muslim National Guards, the militia linked to the Muslim League, systematically attacked Hindus and Sikhs in Western Punjab. Some 3,000 were killed (of whom some 2,000 in Rawalpindi district), and massive destruction of property took place (Carter, 2003: 369).

    1947, April-July: Incidents of violence and arson continued throughout most of the Punjab, but on a relatively lower scale. Some 1,500 persons were killed (Carter, 2003: 369).

    this all list is in spite of the fact that those time media was not so active. I know listing all this is not correct and nothing to be proud of but still things are much better then earlier days. Today new generation doesn't bother about religion and culture and it some how helps !

    some one offended you by holding hands , come on its not such a big deal i too get those things but after that labeling people as hypocrist and intolerable is not good ! may be that neighbour is little jealous (just saying on positive note).

    Again sorry if i got too far in commenting ...
    best luck...

  10. It's okay if you think Indians haven't grown in hypocrisy.. I have seen it that's why I can comment. May the realization dawn on you soon enough..

  11. Sujai,
    Sorry about the off-topic commnent.

    What happened to your startup ? You seem to have stopped blogging at your other blog. Hope everything is fine. Best Wishes.

  12. Hi, you haven't written anything for long time. I'm regular reader of your blog. Please continue ur writing

  13. @Sujai
    I wonder why no works from Indian writers in pre-independence era were included for their list would be really long and substantial. Another thing, books are banned in almost every country, but reasons may vary. Even comparatively "harmless" works of child fiction have been banned time and again in countries like USA due to their "perceived" unsuitability. Although many bans have also been reverted and reinstated over years amid public protests and legal proceedings, banning of books has not stopped in the least. It should also be remembered that religious or historical criticism is one thing but distortion of facts is quite another. This is why banning of certain books cannot be generalized as a restraint on the freedom of expression. Even then, there is no dearth of works meting out historical and religious criticisms in India which have never been banned.

    If you think banning of books in India can be equated with hypocrisy and intolerance what do you have to say about western countries where it is still more a norm rather than exception. Speaking of Indian culture, media, politicians and intelligentsia leave no opportunity to attack it, but who is attacking them? The trend is to single out any unpleasant experiences one might have and make them representative of the Indian mentality and attitude, then where lies the hypocrisy? Speaking of hypocrisy and intolerance, what would you say about attacks on Indians in Australia or mistreatment meted out to Indians living in Britain.


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