Sunday Salon: Banned Books Week

The Sunday
I think you will find a lot of posts across blogosphere as to why banning books is shameful and ridiculous. I won't add my words to the topic, as I think a lot of bloggers have put the message across more eloquently. Instead, I will focus on a couple of authors whose books have been banned in India, and how it reflects on a country trying to make its mark on the world.

Whenever I think of banned books, I think of Taslima Nasrin. She is a Bangladeshi author who has been hounded for her outspoken views on feminism and her critical look at Islam. Taslima Nasrin shot into fame with her novel, Lajja, which details the volatile situation in Bangladesh following the Babri Masjid demolitions in Ayodhya in India. The book was banned in Bangladesh because of the graphic description of the rape of a Hindu woman by a Muslim man. Her autobiography Dwikhandito was banned in India because it offended the sensibilities of Islamic fundamentalists, and she was forced to delete a couple of controversial paragraphs. But still the moral police didn't leave her alone. She was hounded out of her adoptive hometown Kolkata, kept under house arrest in Delhi, and finally forced to leave India under the shadow of death threats and fatwas. There are other instances of religious banning: Satanic Verses is probably the most famous one, but some books banned in the British Raj era remain banned even today.

Nine Hours to Rama by Stanley Wolpert is another book that has been banned in India because it exposes negligences in security of Mahatma Gandhi which led to his assassination. The book is set in the nine hours of Nathuram Godse's life upto the time he killed the Mahatma. Nehru: A Political Biography by Michael Edwards is another banned book which traces Nehru's political and psychological development. Any book that is even faintly critical of India and its policies finds itself on the banned list, which makes me wonder: how progressive are we really?

What I don't understand is the double standards of the Indian government when it comes to banning books. It bans Nasrin's books as it is seen to hurt the sentiments of the minorities, but allows Bal Thackeray's inflammatory anti-Muslim writings in his mouthpiece newspaper to continue. It tells Nasrin that she has to respect the sentiments of the 150million-odd Muslims living in the country, but when Thackeray calls these same Muslims as "cancerous", it takes no stand. The conclusion is obvious: appease the minority vote bank while retaining control over the Hindu majority. Political power pays.

Another ban topic is Mahatma Gandhi. Any book or other work that has tried to depict Gandhi as Mohandas rather than Mahatma, that tries to put forth Nathuram Godse's side of the story, is instantly buried by the censors. Books like Nine Hours to Rama have faced this, as have plays like Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy (I am Nathuram Godse Speaking). These works don't take anything away from the greatness that is Gandhi, but just serve to provide an all-round view. I have no doubt that Gandhi himself would be quite angry with the web that has been spun around his name.

In the U.S., books are banned from the educational curriculum if they are considered to be blasphemous or filled with profanities. I don't think such measures are taken in India, mainly because our education system is different, and we don't have prescribed reading books. But in India, book banning takes an ugly and intolerant stand, often leading to book burning. It almost always has political undertones, and I hate to say this, but I don't see it changing anytime soon.

And here are this week's giveaways.
Misfit Salon is giving away an Amazon gift card or a choice of three books till October 5
Alaine-Queen of Happy Endings is giving away 6 books as part of her birthday celebrations till October 31 as well as Marked by PC and Kristin Cast by October 7

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8 Responses
  1. debnance Says:

    Banning books is scary, honestly. People try to ban what they fear.

  2. Amanda Says:

    The nice thing about America is that there are no bans on books cross-country. The government is not banning anything. Bans occur in schools or libraries but not ALL schools or ALL libraries. The idea of government blanket banning is really terrifying. I'm glad you're getting the word out about these banned authors.

  3. She Says:

    Thanks for posting about this! It's really interesting to read about banning styles in other countries and how they differ-- especially the whole double standards you posted about. Banning is just something I can't truly understand, it seems so ridiculous.

    I wish I knew more about Gandhi to understand the bannings.

    Great post!

  4. Gavin Says:

    Great post, censorship is an important issue all around the world.

    Book banning in the U.S. often happen when parents are trying to get schools or libraries to remove books they feel are inappropriate for their children. Instead of being open with kids and discussing important and uncomfortable topics they try to get others to do the parenting for them.

  5. Petty Witter Says:

    The banning of books is one thing but the burning of them? A whole other matter - I had no idea this went on. It's interesting to note that in India books are largely banned for political reasons when, elsewhere, it seems to be down to religious reasons.

  6. beastmomma Says:

    Thanks for such an informative and interesting post!

  7. Nymeth Says:

    Thank you for this. It's important to remember how big a problem censorship still s worldwide.

  8. bermudaonion Says:

    Banning books is ugly and intolerant no matter where it happens.

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