Mumbai: After days of heated discussion and public debate over the withdrawal of Rohinton Mistry’s book ‘Such A Long Journey’, from the Mumbai University curriculum at the behest of Shiv Sena, the author has finally broken his silence.
In a forceful statement from Canada, where he is based, the cloistered author slammed Shiv Sena scion Aditya Thackeray, who led the protest and Mumbai University VC Rajan Welukar, who immediately yielded to the demands.
Speaking to a daily about Aditya, who was introduced as Sena’s heir in its traditional Dussehra public meeting at Shivaji Park on Sunday: “As for the grandson of the Shiv Sena leader, the young man who takes credit for the whole pathetic business, who admits to not having read the book, just the few lines that offended him and his bibliophobic brethren, he has now been inducted in the family enterprise of parochial politics, anointed leader of his newly minted ‘youth wing’. What can – what should-one feel about him? Twenty years old, in the final year of a BA in history, at my own Alma Mater, the beneficiary of a good education, he is about to embark down the Sena’s well-trodden path, to appeal, like those before him, to all that is worst in human nature.”
Apparently, VC Rajan Welukar is not spared either. Copies of ‘Such A Long Journey’ were burnt by Sena activists, who declared on TV that they would have burned Rohinton if he were in India. “The mob demands the book’s removal within 24 hours from the syllabus,” says Mistry. “The good vice-chancellor obliges the mob. All this happened in September. Subsequently, the Shiv Sena sent fulsome congratulations to the vice-chancellor on his prompt and wise decision. Students and faculty protested the abomination, unwilling to accept this abuse of power, his invoking of emergency measures unused in the University’s 153-year history, circumventing the process for syllabus change, damaging the University’s reputation, succumbing to political pressure. For days, the vice-chancellor said nothing, offered no explanation. He is, we are told, a PhD in statistics – a useful subject for dealing with permutations, combinations, probabilities but silent on the matter of moral responsibility.”
According to Mistry, Thackeray’s actions are in keeping with the Sena’s history of curbing freedom of speech. “In this sorry spectacle of book-burning, Sena has followed its depressingly familiar, tediously predictable script of threats and intimidation that Mumbai has endured since the organisation’s founding in 1966.”