India bans books with depressing frequency, says Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph.
Earlier this year, the Gujarat government banned a book on Mahatma Gandhi by an American writer. The book was not then available in India, and no one in Gujarat had read it. The ban, ordered by the chief minister, Narendra Modi, was on the basis of a tendentious news report and a still more tendentious book review.
After Modi announced his ban, the first instinct of the government of India was to emulate him. Congress spokesmen called for a countrywide ban. The then law minister, Veerappa Moily, indicated that he would follow their lead. There was a spirit of competitive chauvinism abroad; how could the Congress allow a non-Congress politician to claim to be defending the reputation of the Mahatma?
In the event, the government of India did not enforce a ban on the book. This was principally because of two quick, focused interventions by Rajmohan Gandhi and Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Both are grandsons of the Mahatma; both, besides, are scholars and public figures in their own right. Rajmohan and Gopalkrishna wrote signed articles in the press saying that a ban would be contrary to the spirit of Gandhi, a man who encouraged and promoted debate; it would also call into question India’s claims to be the world’s largest democracy. more