Putting up the bans

Since when did it become official policy that us mango people have to be kept in the dark and fed only bullshit?

“Doubts and questions have been raised over the role and patriotism of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel with respect to partition of the country. The book contains contradictory writings about the facts of history that can spoil the image of the son (Sardar Patel) of the soil of Gujarat and architect of the unity of India,” the release said.”The state government, therefore, has put a ban on the book with immediate effect,” it added.

Thus, from the Gujarat government on the rationale behind its decision to ban Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah, that has already led to the BJP leader’s expulsion from the primary membership of the party.

Assume Narendra Modi, or someone from the Gujarat government, has actually read  the book. Assume further that it does raise questions about Patel’s patriotism. What then?

How do we call ourselves a democracy and simultaneously perpetuate a culture where any questioning of “accepted” history is immediately greeted with a ban? If doubts have been raised, how does banning the book accomplish anything constructive? Wouldn’t a better course of action be for these doubts to be refuted on the basis of the “facts of history”, rather than by banning a book? And since when did it become the role of a government to vigorously protect the image of historical figures from being “spoilt”?

“It is a bid to defame Patel by distorting historical facts,” it charged. “So, the state government has decided to ban the book with immediate effect for wider public interest,” it said.

Why is it in the “wider public interest” for the book to be banned rather than debated and, if it deserves to be, dismissed? And why is the media, a firm believer that the best yardstick to measure “news” is the decibel count, reluctant to do more than mention the ban?

“The day we start banning books, we are banning thinking,” said Singh.

Yes well — Singh, now angst-ridden over the ban of his book on the heels of his expulsion from the party, has been a founder-member of a party that has done its fair share of banning in the past, without expressing similar sentiments.

And therein lies the problem: each time this happens, the affected party — a Salman Rushdie, a Taslima Nasreen, a James Laine — expresses outrage to a lesser or greater degree, forums and blogs raise some dust [consider the comments on this Soutik Biswas blog post, to cite just one instance] but the political class remains unmoved, the judiciary rubber stamps the ban, and we quickly forget and move on. Till the next book is banned at which point, rinse, repeat.

PostScript: The Asian Age in its front page story on the latest developments had this little teaser from Arun Shourie that indicates the fun is just beginning. Quoting sources to suggest that it was LK Advani who recommended that Jaswant be sacked from primary membership of the party, the story segues neatly to Arun Shourie who says, “Advaniji se poocha jai ki ab Jinnah par unka stand kya hai?

Elsewhere, the DNA suggests that the actions against Jaswant are not in fact a book review taken to extremes, but a “subtle signal” to Vasundhara Raje. Which puts me in mind of the mother who, on the first day of school, told the teacher: ‘If my son does something wrong, just punish the child sitting next to him. My son is very sensitive, he will get the message.’

PostScript: On a friend’s blog, saw this take on the book ban just now. One element in it caught my attention:

Unfortunately, it seems the BJP considered Jaswant Singh’s actions to be irresponsible, though several key BJP personalities went on air last night on various TV news channels, to admit that the book was ‘intellectually honest’. But they hastened to add that it was not aligned with the party’s ideology, and that he should have know better.

Let’s see — does that mean that to be intellectually honest is not a part of the BJP’s ideology? Or could we interpret this to mean the BJP’s ideology is intellectually honest?

Either way, all this does is to add hypocrisy to book banning in the list of the party’s virtues.

5 thoughts on “Putting up the bans

  1. Pingback: The “right light” « Smoke Signals

  2. Precisely said Prem, I still cannot understand how the Gujarat government banned the book so quickly. Anything which happened in history can be a subject of an investigation, banning such a work is utter non-sense.

  3. Pingback: links for 2009-08-20 « Unjustly

  4. Meaning it cannot be disseminated in any form and by any means — and yes, though I haven’t gotten hold of a text of the government’s actual order yet, such activities would be part of what is banned.

    What does it achieve? Nothing much, really — those who are open minded enough or curious enough to find out what the fuss is about will read the book anyway [the Sivaji book is banned in Maharashtra, which doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of folks here who have read it]

    Some of the noises coming out of the chintan baitak — like the ones you refer to here — indicate nothing more than the complete absence of chintan in the baitak. The leadership stumbles into a crisis, flails about, takes action, then finds words to justify those actions. ‘Against our ideology’ is handy when you don’t have an official ideology — use it as a cover all for anything and everything that comes your way.

  5. Prem, What exactly does banning the “circulation” of a book mean ? The article you linked to says that it will not be published or distributed in the state of gujarat ?

    Does the ban prevent someone from taking a copy into the state border, reading it, sermonizing it, talking about it, publicizing it, reading about it/reading it on the internet etc? What do these bans actually achieve?

    I read somewhere yesterday that speaking about Jinnah “in a positive way” and about Sardar patel in a “negative way” was against BJP idealogy ? Has the BJP published some book on do’s and don’ts on the thousands of public figures and happenings in history?

    I believe in UFOs :), would that be against BJP Idealogy if I wanted to join BJP? Do I have to declare upfront?

Comments are closed.