Sign up for Equitymaster's free daily newsletter, The 5 Minute WrapUp and get access to our latest Multibagger guide (2017 Edition) on picking money-making stocks.

This is an entirely free service. No payments are to be made.

Download Now Subscribe to our free daily e-letter, The 5 Minute WrapUp and get this complimentary report.
We hate spam as much as you do. Check out our Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.
Why ban the new Gandhi book? - Outside View by Sidharth Bhatia
Why ban the new Gandhi book?

The decision by the Gujarat government to ban a new book on Mahatma Gandhi, "Great Soul" should not surprise anyone. The moment stories appeared that the book had raised suspicions about Gandhi's sexuality, it was inevitable that the various authorities would jump in and try to be the first to ban it. Officials like nothing better than to excercise their power and proscribe books, films, plays etc which they deem offensive and "hurtful to public sentiments." Our rulers do not want the morals of the public compromised in any way and want to protect the poor junta from such corrupting elements.

The Maharashtra government, which knows a thing or two about banning books is also contemplating a similar action and in Delhi, the Law Minister Veerappa Moily has already given notice that his own views run in the same direction.

Interestingly, none of these leaders have read or even seen the book. It is yet to make its appearance in Indian bookshops. Their perceptions are based on reports in a couple of Indian newspapers, which in turn are based on a new story in The Daily Mail, an ultra-conservative newspaper in Britain which quoted extracts from letters written by Gandhi and interpreted them as showing his homosexual attraction to a friend. Not only that, Gandhi apparently was also a racist, according to The Mail because he did not care for the blacks in South Africa where he lived for 21 years till 1914.

Any sensible person would ask a few questions. Firstly, the letters are open to interpretation and do not in any way confirm his alleged homosexuality. They are written in a kind of century-old elaborate style which now sounds quaint. Secondly, assuming he had homosexual tendencies, so what? It is not a sin or a crime, not even legally. Thirdly, Gandhi himself has been transparent about his life, not only asking himself questions but also inviting questions about himself. He would have been unhappy at this kind of blatant censorship, since he believed in letting all points of view prevail. This is a point at least two of Bapu's surviving grandsons, Rajmohan and Gopal have made in newspaper articles in the last two days.

Most important of all, the critical issue is, why should books be banned? In the last few years, many books on Gandhi, Nehru, Sonia Gandhi, Shivaji etc have found disfavour with either their followers or politicians who have promptly banned them. Readers will be intrigued to know that Lady Chatterley's Lover, the classic by D H Lawrence is still banned in India as is Satanic Verses. An old 1960s film on the Gandhi murder, Nine Hours to Rama also is in the same category.

Are our people so stupid and childish that they cannot make up their own minds? Do they have to be protected? Can a small band of fanatics dictate terms to society at large? And does banning have a place in modern liberal societies especially in the age of the Internet? Is this how mature democracies behave?

These are very important and relevant questions. As citizens of a democracy, it is important that we have freedom to speak, to read, to write and to think. Today it is a book on Gandhi-tomorrow it could be on political discourse. This has a chilling effect on the democratic spirit. In the US, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech; we have Article 19 of the Constitition protects freedom of expression.

In this age of instant technology, how is such a ban going to be enforced. Even if I cannot buy Great Soul in a Mumbai bookshop, I can now get the entire book (and all previous banned books) on my iPad. Will the intelligence agencies spend their time monitoring the internet to see who downloads it?

In recent years, our perception of Gandhi has changed. We now talk openly about his sexual experiments, his poor relationship with his family and sons and even his political views. At the same time, our respect for him has actually increased; the younger generation thinks more highly of him than ever. Surely we can cope with the complexities of his character.

Incidently, the author of the latest book, Joseph Lelyveld has actually denied any such interpretation. He says the newspaper, The Daily Mail has completely twisted his book to draw wrong conclusions. That should have made the Gujarat government pause before it took its hasty decision. But that would be asking for too much-such good sense has rarely been shown by babus and netas. They are less concerned with higher thoughts of democracy and more with populist measures, or what they think are steps that will please the masses. Which is a pity, because I do not think that the aam aadmi would support the decision taken in his name.

This article is written by Sidharth Bhatia. Sidharth is a senior Indian journalist who has worked in print, broadcast and online media. He is a columnist and regular commentator on current affairs for several leading publications and on national television. This article was first posted on Personalfn.

The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.


Equitymaster requests your view! Post a comment on "Why ban the new Gandhi book?". Click here!

1 Responses to "Why ban the new Gandhi book?"

Pradeep Kumar Nair

Apr 4, 2011

Don't know how many more revolutions Gandhiji will have to take in his grave (pardon Mr Modi , I know he was cremated), given the banal atrocities that our leaders inflict on his people and sanguinely in his name. Probably our leaders are worried that if the people find out that a mere mortal can transform to a genuine human being, there may be a tremendous weight of expectations that we people may impose on our our current crop , so it is imperative for them to keep him on a pedestal and keep slipping garlands and slippers. Of course, it is even funnier that the ban first came from Modi an avowed anti-Gandhian !! Hmmm.. surprises never cease

Equitymaster requests your view! Post a comment on "Why ban the new Gandhi book?". Click here!

More Views on News

Zee Ent: GST Short term Negative but Long term Positive (Quarterly Results Update - Detailed)

Aug 14, 2017

The management believes that GST will aid the advertising spends in the long-run.

S Chand and Company Ltd. (IPO)

Apr 26, 2017

Should you subscribe to the IPO of S Chand and Company Limited?

GTPL Hathway Ltd. (IPO)

Jun 21, 2017

Should one subscribe to the IPO of GTPL Hathway Ltd?

Zee Ent: Advertising drives revenues (Quarterly Results Update - Detailed)

Aug 1, 2016

Zee Entertainment has announced its results for the first quarter of the financial year 2016-17 (1QFY17). The company has reported 18.5% YoY growth in sales and a 13.7% YoY growth in profit after tax.

Zee Ent: Taxes, lower other income mar bottomline (Quarterly Results Update - Detailed)

Feb 3, 2016

Zee Entertainment has announced the third quarter results of financial year 2015-2016 (3QFY16). While the topline grew by 17% YoY, bottomline fell 11% YoY during the quarter.

More Views on News

Most Popular

A 'Backdoor' to Multibaggers: It's Like Investing in Asian Paints Ten Years Ago(The 5 Minute Wrapup)

Aug 10, 2017

Don't miss these proxy bets on growing companies or in a few years you will be looking back with regret.

The Most Important Innovation in Finance Since Gold Coins(Vivek Kaul's Diary)

Aug 10, 2017

Bill connects the dots...between money and growth, real money and real resources, gold and cryptocurrencies...and between gold, cryptocurrencies, and time.

Signs of Life in the India VIX(Daily Profit Hunter)

Aug 12, 2017

The India VIX is up 36% in the last week. Fear has gone up but is still low by historical standards.

Bitcoin Continues Stellar Rise(Chart Of The Day)

Aug 10, 2017

Bitcoin hits an all-time high, is there more upside left?

5 Steps To Become Financially Independent(Outside View)

Aug 16, 2017

Ensure your financial Independence, and pledge to start the journey towards financial freedom today!


Become A Smarter Investor In
Just 5 Minutes

Multibagger Stocks Guide 2017
Get our special report, Multibagger Stocks Guide (2017 Edition) Now!
We will never sell or rent your email id.
Please read our Terms


Aug 22, 2017 11:10 AM