Monday, April 4, 2011

The Controversial Book on Mahatma Gandhi

Union law minister Veerappa Moily rules out ban on Gandhi book

Nagpur: Union law minister Veerappa Moily has ruled out Centre imposing a ban on the controversial book on Mahatma Gandhi by Joseph Lelyveld stating that the American author himself has denied writing anything adverse about the leader. Moily said it was the review of the book by the interpreters which led to sharp reactions all over the country on the alleged comments regarding Gandhi’s sexuality.

“There is no question of banning the book as the author has clarified that he has not written what has been attributed to the book,” Moily told reporters. Lelyveld’s book ‘Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India’ became the centre of controversy for allegedly carrying certain ‘derogatory’ remarks about his lifestyle and sexual conduct.

Intellectuals and Gandhi kin had come out in the open against the clamour for taking out of shelves the controversial book, saying that a ban was not a “democratic response”.

Gujarat government has already banned the book. The reviews of the book hit the newspapers in England and US had claimed that the book says Gandhi was a bisexual and had a German-Jewish bodybuilder lover in Hermann Kallenbach. Condemning the ban, Lelyveld said, “in a country (India) that calls itself a democracy, it is shameful to ban a book that no one has read, including the people who are doing the banning. “They should at least make an effort to see the pages that they think offend them before they take such an extreme step. I find it very discouraging to think that India would so limit discussion,” he said.

Gandhi’s great grandson Tushar Gandhi said it would be a “greater insult” to Bapu than that book or the author might have intended. “If the government of Maharashtra bans the book, it will be a greater insult to Bapu than that book or the author might have intended. I will challenge the ban,” he tweeted.

He said he was against the culture of banning books and added “how does it matter if the Mahatma was straight, gay or bisexual? Every time he would still be the man who led India to freedom”. Writer K Sachidanandan said the plans to ban the book should be condemned. “Banning a book is not a democratic action,” he said. However, the book has been flayed by some. Noted historian and former Jamia vice-chancellor Mushirul Hassan said, “He (the author) is just trying to sensationalise the life of Gandhi. It is a very unkind act and should be avoided by all concerned. Gandhi was so open and that led him to misinterpretation and this is an example of that.” AGENCIES

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