Table of Contents Hide
- An Area of Darkness – V.S. Naipaul
- The Satanic Verses – Salmon Rushdie
- Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India – James Laine
- Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence – Jaswant Singh
- Such A Long Journey – Rohinton Mistry
- Polyester Prince: The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani – Hamish McDonald
- List of more books banned in India
Dr Sushil Rudra PhD (University of Calcutta)
Book censorship is not a new phenomenon – books have been banned and burnt for centuries. In a multicultural country like India, it is difficult to maintain perfect stability, especially when it comes to religion. Here I will try to explain about” The banned books in India”.
India is a country of diversities – Diversity In demography, in languages, in dress and food habits and so on. Even diversity in religious beliefs. Far too often, religion seeps into public life, into politics and literature, instigating waves of discord that manifest themselves through public demonstrations and litigation.
On a fundamental level, censorship of books displays a blatant disregard for pluralism, and an overwhelming eagerness to tear down new ideas.
While it is certainly the government’s prerogative, too often, the law is taken in the hands by outraged citizens!
As the spate of book banning continues in India, here are some of the most controversial banned books in India in the recent past –
An Area of Darkness – V.S. Naipaul
The first book in Naipaul’s trilogy on India – ‘An Area of Darkness’ was published in 1964. It is a semi-autobiographical account of the year he spent travelling in India.
The style of the book is quintessentially Naipaul – unsentimental, unflinching .– he writes with a coldness of a surgeon’s knife. It features Naipaul’s strikingly original responses to India’s paralysing caste system, its apparently serene acceptance of poverty and squalor, and the conflict between its desire for self-determination and its nostalgia for the British raj.
Obviously, the dark tone of the book did not please the Indian tourism board. Criticised for its portrayal of India as a helpless, hopeless place, the book was banned in India.
The Satanic Verses – Salmon Rushdie
The Satanic Verses
Salmon Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ is considered the most controversial book ever. It got him immense notoriety as a writer and also a few death threats.
There was a rash of protests around the world following its publication in 1988. Books and effigies of the writer were burnt. India was the first country to ban the book.– Other countries soon followed suit.
The book is about two Indian expatriates, now living in England, are on an aeroplane when it is exploded by terrorists.
They survive the explosion and the fall, but after landing their lives change. The garish obnoxious one, gains a halo, becoming the arch-angel Gabriel and the prim and proper other one becomes the devil.
The devil’s story is his reintroduction into society and the angel’s story is through his dreams, who he inspires the prophet, Mohamed . Everything culminates into a showdown between these two entities.
Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India – James Laine
Shivaji-Hindu King in Islamic India
When this biographical book on the Marathi King Shivaji was published in 2003, nobody could have anticipated the public ire that it drew. James Laine, a highly respected scholar, had done some of his research for the book in Bhandarkar Institute of Oriental Research, Pune.
While a ban was imposed on the book in Maharashtra, angry mobs ransacked the institute and destroyed many precious manuscripts in the process. James Laine traces the origin and development of the Shivaji legend from the earliest sources to the contemporary accounts of the tale.
His primary concern was to discover the meaning of Shivaji’s life for those who have composed the legendary accounts of his military victories, his daring escapes, his relationships with saints.
In the process, he painted a complex picture of Hindu-Muslim relations from the seventeenth century to the present.
Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence – Jaswant Singh
Jinnah, India, Partition, Independence
Eyebrows were raised when Jaswant Singh, a prominent member of the BJP came out with a book on Jinnah in 2009. Like its heavy title, the book was pronounced to have suitable scholarly merit.
Instead of being a tendentious tome, it was a well-researched, perspicuous book. However, the Gujarat government banned the book and Jaswant Singh was unceremoniously expelled from his party.
The partition of India in 1947, has been the most wounding trauma of the twentieth century. Why did this partition take place at all?
Jaswant Singh attempts to find an answer. He studies Jinnah’s political journey beginning as ‘an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’ and ended up with his becoming the ‘sole spokesman’ of Muslims in India.
The book attempts an objective evaluation of Jinnah’s transformation.
Such A Long Journey – Rohinton Mistry
‘Such a long journey’ is a highly acclaimed novel by Rohinton Mistry. It has won many awards like The Commonwealth Writers Prize, Governor General’s award, and was also shortlisted for the prestigious Booker prize.
It follows the family life of a Parsi protagonist in the tumultuous decade of 1970, under the rule of Indira Gandhi. Shiv Sena objected to the ‘derogatory’ remarks made against its leader in the book. The issue was fiercely debated on public forums and within academic circles after the University of Mumbai withdrew the book from its syllabus.
Rohinton Mistry later issued a public statement, expressing his disappointment about the withdrawal.
Polyester Prince: The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani – Hamish McDonald
Polyester Prince-The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani
‘Polyester Prince’, the unofficial biography of Dhirubhai Ambani, which could have been one of the polemical biographies of the decade, never saw the light of the day.
Harper Collins, the publisher anticipated legal action from the Ambani family and pulled the plug before the book could go into print. The book comments on length on the concept of power, and gives a riveting account of Ambani’s meteoric rise, his hits and misses and his successors.
The book, though unavailable in India, can be found and read on the web. Pirated copies of the book are also commonplace.
It was five past midnight in Bhopal – Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro
It was five past midnight in Bhopal
‘It was five past midnight in Bhopal’ is a novel based on one of the greatest disasters in the recent times – the Bhopal gas tragedy, which killed thousands of people and left lakhs injured.
Instead of being a dry, prosaic account, the book is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, a chronicle of human survival against all odds.
The book was banned after Swaraj Puri, the commissioner of Bhopal during that period, filed a defamation suit. Later, the ban was lifted by the Madhya Pradesh high court.
List of more books banned in India
This is a list of books or any specific textual material that have been or are banned in India or parts of India.
This section lists books that are banned or once faced a nationwide ban in India (including in British India.
Date –Work- Author-Notes– 1924 Rangila RasulPandit M. A. Chamupati or Krishan Prashaad Prataab. In May 1924, this Urdu booklet was published in Lahore. The booklet purportedly described Prophet Muhammad‘s relationship with women. The publisher, Raj Pal, was charged under 153A of the Indian Penal Code for hate speech by the Punjab government.
The final disposition came in May 1927. The court declared that law does not prohibit satirical writings about the deceased and the publisher was acquitted with a warning. On 6 April 1929, the publisher was murdered. The murderer, a Muslim youth named Ilm-ud-din, was sentenced to death and the sentenced was carried out on 31 October 1929. Ilm-ud-din’s defence lawyer was Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Heaven Max WylieIt cannot be brought into India. Max Wylie, the creator The Flying Nun TV show, researched this book while teaching in Lahore. The novel questioned the work of American missionaries in India. It also dealt with the harsh effects of the climate on the missionaries.
This section lists books that were banned by a state government. The Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 allows the state governments to declare any publication as forfeit. Date Work Author State(s) Notes .1944 Satyarth Prakash Dayananda Saraswati Sindh Satyartha Prakash was banned in some princely states and in Sindh in 1944 and is still banned in Sindh. In 2008 two Indian Muslims, Usman Ghani and Mohammad Khalil Khan of Sadar Bazar, Delhi, following the fatwa of Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, the Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid in Delhi, urged the Delhi High Court to ban Satyarth Prakash. However, the court dismissed the petition and commented “A suit by Hindus against the Quran or by Muslims against Gita or Satyarth Prakash claiming relief… are in fact, meant to play mischief in the society.”
1969 Ramayana: A True Reading Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. Uttar PradeshThe Hindi version of the book, Sachchi Ramayana, was banned by the state government and all copies were seized in December 1969. The publisher challenged the decision in the Allahabad High Court. The court nullified the ban and asked the government to return all copies to the publisher. The state government challenged the High Court in the Supreme Court. On 16 September 1976, Supreme Court declared the ban to be illegal.
However, the government ignored the court decisions and managed to stop sales of the book, until 1995. In 1995, after the political party Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) came to power, the book was widely published for the Periyar mela held in September 1995.
2001 Bhavsagar Granth Followers of Baba Bhaniara , by Parkash Singh Badal-led Punjab government in 2001 for allegedly insulting the Sikh faith. The state arrested the people who were found in possession of the book, and confiscated its copies. In November 2008, the Supreme Court of India overturned the ban, stating that the Punjab government was allowed to issue a fresh ban, if needed. Punjab Government then banned the book on 15 December 2008.
2003 Dwikhandito Taslima Nasrin .West Bengal The CPI(M) government banned the book on 28 November 2003 fearing that book could incite communal discord. In November 2003, the Calcutta High Court put out an injunction against publication after a poet, Syed Hasmat Jalal, filed an 110 million INR defamation suit. On 22 September 2005, the court lifted the ban.
2004 Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, James LaineMaharashtraOn January 2004, a mob alleging disparaging remarks made about Shivaji attacked Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute where Laine had researched the book. Several rare manuscripts were destroyed in the process. On 14 January, the state government run by the Congress Party under Sushil Kumar Shinde banned the book. In 2007, the Bombay High Court revoked the ban. The state government challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. Supreme Court upheld the previous decision and lifted the ban in 2010.
2006 The Epic of Shivaji: A Translation and Study of Kavindra Paramananda’s Sivabharata James Laine MaharashtraThe book was banned for allegedly containing derogatory references on grounds that it could cause a law and order problem.
2007 Islam: A Concept of Political World Invasion by R. V. Basin, Maharashtra. The book was released in 2003. It was banned by the Congress government in 2007 ground that it contained derogatory remarks about Islam and Prophet Mohammad. In 2010, Bombay High Court upheld the ban. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court but it rejected the appeal.
2009 Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence. By Jaswant Singh Gujarat. Banned in Gujarat but overturned. The book was on banned on 19 August 2009, for containing defamatory references to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Jaswant Singh was also expelled from his political party, BJP, for writing this book. On 4 September, the Gujarat High Court revoked the ban.
Jharkhand 2011 Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India by Joseph Lelyveld , Gujarat. The biographical book suggested that Gandhi was a bisexual. It is banned in the state of Gujarat (where Gandhi was born) on 31 March 2011. The Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily hinted that the Centre may also ban the book. Gandhi’s grandsons, Tushar Gandhi, Rajmohan Gandhi and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, expressed opposition to the ban proposal. On 4 April, Moily ruled out the ban.
2013 Meendezhum Pandiyar Varalaru (Resurgence of Pandiyan History) K. Senthil Mallar, Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu government banned this Tamil book on 30 May 2013 on grounds that it may cause violence and promote discord among communities. The book allegedly claims the Dalit community called Pallar, were among the rulers of the Pandya kingdom. The author has appealed in the Madras High Court against the ban.
2017 The Adivasi Will Not Dance Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar Jharkhand On 11 August 2017, the government of Jharkhand banned The Adivas Stories was removed in December 2017 and Shekhar’s suspension was removed and he was reinstated into his job in 2018.
Other challenged books:
Read more: Swami Vivekananda’s Inspired Talks : The Gospel/kalpatarurudra.org
These lists of books that have been legally challenged to impose a ban or to exclude from a syllabus. Some books listed here are unavailable or were unavailable for some time in India or parts of it, due to pending court decisions or voluntary withdrawal by the publishers.
Date- Work – Author – Notes:
1892 Risala-i-Jihad, Pandit Lekh Ram . Pandit Lekh Ram’s Risala-i-Jihad was challenged and a ban was attempted. Risala-i-Jihad ya’ri Din-i-Muhammad ki Bunyad (A Treatise on waging holy war, or the foundation of the Muhammadan Religion) caused a considerable outcry, when it was published in 1892. Until his murder by a Muslim five years later, Lekh Ram continued to stir up animosity by his vituperative writings.”
1985 Quran Religious text On 20 July 1984. H.K. Chakraborty wrote to the Secretary, Department of Home Government of West Bengal, demanding the ban of the Quran. Chakraborty thereafter with Chandmal Chopra wrote to the Department of Home Government of West Bengal on 16 March 1985. Chopra then filed a writ Petition at the High Court.
Chandmal Chopra tried to obtain an order banning the Koran, by filing a Writ Petition at the Calcutta High Court on 29 March 1985. The petition claimed that Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code were often used by Muslims to ban or proscribe publications critical of Islam, and stated that “so far it had been the privilege of the Peoples of the Book to ban and burn the sacred literature of the Pagans.
” Chandmal Chopra thought that the Koran “on grounds of religion promotes disharmony, feeling of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities and incite people to commit violence and disturb public tranquility…”
The Telegraph of 9 May 1985 reported that the Union Government would make itself a party in the case, and the Union law minister Ashoke Sen and the attorney-general of the Government of India were going to take action against the case. Muslim lawyers after a meeting condemned the case. According to The Telegraph of 10 May, the Chief Minister of West Bengal called the petition “a despicable act”. Other politicians in the Lok Sabha at New Delhi, and the Minister of State for Law condemned the Petition.
Pakistan’s minister of state for religious and minority affairs claimed that the petition was the ‘worst example of religious intolerance’, and he urged the Indian government to ‘follow the example of Pakistan’ in ensuring freedom of religion. The petition was however dismissed in May 1985. The Attorney-General of the Government of India and the Advocate-General of West Bengal appeared in the case and argued against Chopra’s petition. On 18 June 1985 Chandmal Chopra filed a review petition, which was dismissed on 21 Jun1993.
Hindu View of Christianity and Islam by Ram Swarup. Ram Swarup’s Hindu View of Christianity and Islam was challenged by Syed Shahabuddin (who previously successfully managed to get the Satanic Verses banned). Indian authorities were to impose a ban on the book, Syed Shahabuddin asked that the government have the book examined “from the point of view of banning it under the law of the land.”
1995 The Moor’s Last Sigh Salman RushdieThe book contained a character resembling Balasaheb Thackeray, the leader of the right-wing party Shiv Sena. The book faced protests from the party. The book also contained a dog named, Jawaharlal, named after India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao unofficially banned the book. In September 1995, the local publisher’s Rupa & Co. were asked to stop selling the book while it was being reviewed.
Rupa & Co. decided to approach the Supreme Court of India in response. The court then declared the ban unconstitutional in February 1996. However, booksellers were reluctant to stock the book in Maharashtra, the home of Shiv Sena, due to the fear of vandalism.
1997 The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy, A lawyer named Sabu Thomas from Kerala filed an obscenity case against the author, claiming that Chapter 21 contains obscene scenes.
1998 The Polyester Prince: The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani Hamish McDonaldThis unofficial biography of Dhirubhai Ambani never went to print because Harper Collins anticipated legal action from the Ambani family.
2000 Towards Freedom : Sumit Sarkar and K K Panikkar The 10-volume history book project was halted by the Indian Council of Historical Research in early 2000, allegedly because it showed Hindu Mahasabha in a badlight. The project was revived in 2004.
2001 Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Traditions: Dwijendra Narayan Jha. A preview of the book was posted on a website initially which triggered the controversy. A spokesperson for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad stated that the book was an attempt to insult Hindus. The book allegedly said that beef was eaten by ancient Indians. The author received anonymous threat calls and had to be provided a police escort. A civil court in Andhra Pradesh put a temporary stay order on the book until verdict. Pushpesh Pant supported the book by stating that the evidence exists in historical and mythological texts. The book is also known as The Myth of the Holy Cow.
2002 Five Past Midnight in Bhopal Dominique Lapierre and Javier MoroThe book is a dramatized account of the Bhopal disaster. In 2002, Swaraj Puri filed a defamation suit against the authors worth 10 million USD. Puri, who was the police commissioner of Bhopal during the disaster is mentioned in the book. In 2009, the court put an order to halt publication of the book. But, the Madhya Pradesh High Court revoked the order later.
2008 The Lives of Sri Aurobindo Peter Heehs On 5 November 2004, the Odisha High Court put a stay order on the release of the book, after a petition was filed. The petitioner alleged that the book is blasphemous in nature and defamatory regarding Sri Aurobindo‘s character.
2010 The Red Sari (El Sari Rojo) Javier MoroThe book was originally published in October 2010 in Spanish. The book is a fictional novel allegedly based on Sonia Gandhi. Moro claimed that Congress lawyers and spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi had written to his publishers demanding them to withdraw the book from shops. Abhishek Singhvi claimed that the book violated a person’s privacy for monetary gain. The book was finally released in India in January 2015.
2010 Such A Long Journey Rohinton Mistry On 4 October 2010, this 1990 Booker nominated book was removed from the Bachelor of Arts (English) syllabus of the Mumbai University, after Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, the student-wing of the Shiv Sena protested. The book allegedly contained anti-Shiv Sena passages and remarks derogatory to Maharastrians. The protests were led by Aditya Thackeray. Mistry later expressed his dismay in an open letter to the university.
2013 Dhundi Yogesh Master The author of the Kannada novel was arrested on 29 August 2013, after several Hindu organisations accused the book of containing objectionable material against the god Ganesha. The author was charged under Section 295 A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code. The complaint was filed by Sri Ram Sene leader Pramod Muthalik, and others.
Read more : Rabi Thakurer gaan/ kalpatarurudra.org
2014 Sahara: The Untold Story by Tamal Bandyopadhyay. Sahara India Pariwar moved Calcutta High Court in December 2013 seeking a stay and filed an Rs. 2 billion defamation suit against the author. In January 2014, a stay order was issued by the court. In April, both the parties reached an out of court settlement following which the book was published with a disclaimer given by Sahara 2014 The Descent of Air India Jitendra Bhargava The publisher, Bloomsbury India, agreed to withdraw all copies of the book, after former Aviation Minister Praful Patel filed a defamation suit in a Mumbai court. The publisher also issued a public apology.
And lastly, 2015 Madhorubhagan
(One Part Woman) Perumal Murugan. The writer asked publishers to withdraw all his books from the market and announced that he was giving up writing on 13 January 2015.The BJP, RSS and other Hindu groups had protested his book, and demanded its ban and his arrest. They had alleged that he had portrayed the Kailasanathar temple in Tiruchengode and its women devotees in bad light. The English translation of the book is known as One Part Woman.
2015 Korkai Joe D’Cruz : A complaint was filed against the author in June 2015 in a Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu court alleging the novel had portrayed fishermen, Christianity, priests and nuns in a bad light.
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