Historians flay new book on Gandhi; say it`s in `bad taste`

Controversy has refused to die down over claims about Mahatma Gandhi`s sexual preferences in a new book with Gandhi`s kin and historians saying it was an attempt to `sensationalise` the life of the icon of non-violence.

Updated: Mar 29, 2011, 18:09 PM IST

New Delhi: Controversy has refused to die
down over claims about Mahatma Gandhi`s sexual preferences in
a new book with Gandhi`s kin and historians saying it was an
attempt to "sensationalise" the life of the icon of
non-violence and showed the "negative" mindset of the author.

The Mahatma`s grandson Tushar Gandhi said in Twitter,
"Bapu was celibate".

"These western writers have a morbid fascination for
Gandhi`s sexuality," Tushar said adding, "it only helps them
sell their books. It is always open season with Gandhi".

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," he said.

According to Gandhi`s Granddaughter Tara Gandhi
Bhattacharya, "It (the indications) shows his (the author`s)
mind rather than Gandhi`s. It shows the violence and the
negative mindset of the writer".

"Though I have not read the book I would like to say
that it is in very bad taste. My reaction as a biological
person would have been harsher. But as a citizen of the world
I would say that it is anti any movement of love. It is
totally wrong," she said.

Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar, one of the first to write
on Gandhi`s sexuality in `Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian
Sexuality` and later in `Mira and Mahatma`, said he has gone
through an ocean of archives on Gandhi and he never discovered
anything that the reviewers claim the book consists of.

Jad Adams, whose 2010 book `Gandhi- Naked Ambitions`,
devoted substantial bits to the Mahatma`s sexual life, also
rubbished the homosexual thesis. "If Gandhi committed acts of
homosexuality, there would be ample evidence, either
justifying them or expressing shame for them".

The book in question "Great Soul; Mahatma Gandhi and
His Struggle With India" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Joseph Lelyveld is available in the United States since
Monday.

The reviews of the book hit the newspapers in England
and US claiming that the book says Gandhi was a bisexual and
had a German-Jewish bodybuilder lover in Hermann Kallenbach.

The book, published in the US by Knopf, part of Random
House Inc, is not yet available in India. It quotes certain
letters written by him to Kallenbach in which he says, "How
completely you have taken possession of my body...This is
slavery with a vengeance".

Gandhi lived with Kallenbach in Johannesburg for about
two years from 1907 before leaving South Africa to return to
India in 1914.

According to reports, Lelyveld himself has denied the
allegations saying, "I do not allege that Gandhi is a racist
or bisexual in `Great Soul`. The word `bisexual` nowhere
appears in the book." He also denied having called Gandhi a
racist.

PTI