Give Gandhi biographer chance to explain: US daily

Joseph Lelyveld`s new book on Mahatma Gandhi had created a controversy.

Last Updated: Apr 11, 2011, 12:20 PM IST

Boston: Two Massachusetts groups should
"reconsider" their decision to cancel an event featuring
Joseph Lelyveld, whose new book on Mahatma Gandhi had created
a controversy in India recently, as the author "deserves" a
chance to explain his work, a leading daily here has said.

In an editorial, the city`s leading daily Boston Globe
said that plans for a joint event on April 29 by Lexington
Historical Society and Indian Americans of Lexington featuring
the Pulitzer prize winning author "sadly... have come
unraveled".

"While many readers look to biographies to demystify
major historical figures, there`s a risk of hurt feelings when
the subject is as revered as Gandhi. But no one should take
reviewers` word for what Lelyveld`s book says, and the author
deserves the opportunity to explain his work. The two groups
in Lexington should reconsider," the Boston Globe editorial
said.

The editorial added that an event co-sponsored last year
by the Lexington Historical Society and the Indian Americans
group was focussed on "comparing the American and Indian
movements against British rule" and had "attracted a
standing-room crowd."

The Indian Americans of Lexington felt the media coverage
of the book `Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with
India` had caused "some discomfort" in the Indian-American
community.

The organisation felt it might not be fair to Lelyveld to
invite him to a potentially heated event, the editorial added.

A report in the Boston Herald quoted chairman of the
Indian Americans of Lexington Puran Dang as saying that his
group had cancelled the April 29 event as it "wanted to avoid
any controversy" for the historical society.

Dang had said he had not read the book and "the author
may be 100 per cent correct."

"To avoid any controversy, with all respect to the
author... it was a decision which was jointly taken in the
interest of everything being in a peaceful status," the report
quoted Dang as saying.

Lelyveld`s publisher Alfred Knopf said in a statement
that the decision to cancel the event was "based on
misinformation, not facts."

"Lelyveld is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and it
is their organisation`s great loss that their members will be
denied an opportunity to hear him," the statement said.

Lelyveld`s book got embroiled in a controversy after a
review published said the book claimed that Gandhi was
"bisexual" and "deeply in love with Hermann Kallenbach," an
architect and bodybuilder who became Gandhi`s disciple in
South Africa.

Lelyveld has maintained that he has not used the word
bisexual anywhere in the book and that his book is not
"sensationalist".

This is the second event featuring Lelyveld that has
been cancelled this month in the wake of the controversy over
his book.

Earlier, Foundation for Excellence, an educational
organisation in California that provides scholarships for
students in India, canceled an appearance by Lelyveld citing a
desire to avoid controversy.

The book is expected to hit the Indian markets later this
month. It has been banned in Gujarat.

PTI