One of the hot topics in the Indian news media over the past couple of weeks, was Jaswant Singh’s expulsion from the BJP due to the release of his book titled “Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence”. It seems the book blames Jawaharlal Nehru for the partition in 1947 and claims that Jinnah was wrongly portrayed as the villain of the partition.
Not long after the book’s launch, the pro-Hindutva State government of Gujarat banned the sale, publication and distribution of the book in Gujarat. Consequently, Jaswant Singh filed a petition against the ban with the Supreme Court and the court has issued a notice to the Gujarat government for clarification.
Well, it’s good to see the Supreme court take up the cause of democracy and freedom of speech, but what’s more alarming is the state of affairs in India. Indians do not hesitate to boast about India being the world’s largest democracy, but the truth is that events over the last decade have quite often shown India in poor light with respect to democracy. If India wants to join the developed nations of the world, it needs to ensure that the democratic rights of all its citizens are protected.
What is the need to ban a book? If the book distorts facts or is rubbish, then bin it or don’t even buy it. If the book is indeed historically inaccurate, then surely another dozen books correcting the mistakes will be published soon and historical events may be debated. But why ban a book? Why ban somebody’s freedom of expression?
Narendra Modi (chief minister of Gujarat) is seen as both a hero and a villain, a hero by people of Gujarat for his rapid development and industrialization of the state and a villain by pretty much the rest of India for his pro-Hindutva stance and role (or lack of role) in the Gujarat carnage of 2002. Recently, at the inauguration of a new plant for Hitachi Home and Life Solutions India, Narendra Modi said “It’s my dream to make Gujarat a great financial power. A day will come when Gujarat, along with Japan and Singapore, will dominate the Asian economy”. That’s a nice dream Mr. Modi and I appreciate it, but first and foremost, please dream of ensuring that your state is truly democratic and secular [and perhaps also lift prohibition! 😉 ] and fulfil that dream. Otherwise, should there be another carnage in Gujurat, you may scare off investors and your dream of making Gujurat a great financial power won’t be easy to achieve.
Update (05/09/2009) : On 03/09/2009, the Gujarat High Court revoked the ban imposed on the book by the Gujarat Government and within 24 hours, the book’s publishers rushed 5000 copies of the book to Gujarat. Well done Gujarat High Court!!