Intellectuals oppose banning controversial book on Gandhi

Updated: Mar 31, 2011, 19:48 PM IST

New Delhi: Intellectuals and Gandhi kin have come out in the open against the clamour for taking out of shelves a controversial book on Mahatma Gandhi, saying banning is not a "democratic response".

Gujarat government has already banned the book "Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld while Maharashtra is contemplating such an action. Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily had also hinted at such a possibility earlier.

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 will 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.

Another writer Namita Gokhale noted that "every time a book is banned, it saddens me because you simple cannot ban ideas, you cannot ban thoughts." She said she was more resigned than upset by this development.

"In India a democratic space for ideas is a gift and I think banning a book is the most pointless exercise," she said.