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