Controversies over books are driven by politics

Shirish Shinde
Sunday, 19 January 2020

Controversies over books or any art form will arise because there will always be a section of the people who will not agree with the content. However, what is worrisome is the politicisation of such issues often resulting in chaos among the masses

Controversies surrounding books for political or non-political reasons have been a permanent feature of our public life. Being a democratic society, people have the freedom to write in India, albeit with reasonable restrictions.

In the majority of cases, it is politics, which stokes up controversy for its own end.

The latest in the series is Aaj Ke Shivaji: Narendra Modi, penned by BJP leader Jai Bhagwan Goyal, which has rattled politics in Maharashtra.
As its title suggests, the comparison between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and PM Narendra Modi has triggered the row. Allegations and counter-allegations are running thick and fast.

Commenting on the issue, writer Vishwas Patil said, “I can’t comment on the row over Aaj Ke Shivaji as I have not read the book. However, controversies will erupt as long as books are being written as some sections of people would not agree with the content. This can be said about any work of art. This happens with films also.”

Here are some instances of books mired in controversies in the past.

The Satanic Verses, a novel published in 1988, by Salman Rushdie is among the most controversial books. It was banned in the country as it hurt sentiments of a religious group. A death warrant was issued against Rushdie for blasphemy. Attempts were also made on his life. The book is barred till date. Rushdie was forced not to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012.

Bengali writer Taslima Nasreen was attacked for her book Lajja: Shame. She had angered a religious section of Bangladesh, who called for a ban on her novel. In October 1993, a radical group announced a prize for her death. ‘Lajja’ portrayed the struggle of a patriotic Bangladeshi family and was banned in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Taslima said her book could be seen as a symbol of protest against violence and hatred across the world. She fled Bangladesh in 1994 and stayed in exile in Sweden and Germany for 10 years. Finally, Taslima came back to India, where she sought permission to stay indefinitely.

During the 1980s, hardliners protested against some sections in Riddles in Hinduism by Dr BR Ambedkar. They argued Ambedkar’s comments inflamed sentiments of a religion. Ambedkar’s followers staged counter-demonstrations.
Another most controversial book, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, by James Laine, was criticised after its release. The anger against the book was so high that it almost became a law and order issue in Maharashtra. Later, it was banned in the State for portraying Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his parents in a bad light. The publishers withdrew the book and it was banned in 2004.

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