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