Let’s admit it – banning books is not a new thing; it is not exclusive to this regime. Rohinton Mistry’s Such A Long Journey was withdrawn from Mumbai University’s syllabus just because it was critical of the Emergency, and Indira Gandhi in general (since Mistry has been very vocal about his criticism on Emergency in his other novels too).
I remember how Advani argued then that for a democracy to remain a democracy, it is important that freedom of speech and expression is not jeopardized.
Fast forward to ache din.
Dinanath Batra, head of Shiksha Bachao Andolan, a brain child of RSS wants Tagore and Urdu words off school textbooks. He was the same person who propelled the pulping of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History (the anti-national me has the book, has read it) in March, 2010
In 2016 Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi was stopped at Central University of Haryana just because the ABVP thought that it disrespected security forces.
And now, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance has been banned by the Jharkhand government.
That thing about Adivasis
If you don’t know, Adivasis do not fall into the Hindu society. They have their separate set of rituals and customs which they have preserved over thousands of years.
Every moment, whenever Adivasis have tried to speak up for themselves, they have been silenced. Be it the Dongria-Kondh tribe of Niyamgiri against Vedanta or Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Andolan against the brutalities of security forces in Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand.
This is what Hansda Sowvendra Shekha’s now-banned book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance is about. Not so explicitly about state violence, but is surely against this repressive regime that has made Adivasis into nothing but puppet citizens who will give up whatever the government demands.
The CM of Jharkhand, Raghubar Das, who already has eight serious criminal offenses, including punishment for rioting, believes that Santhali women have been portrayed in a bad light.
Bad light? What does he even know about Santhali women?
And if he so cares about the representation of tribal women, what about those tribal women who have been raped by security forces like Dopdi Mejhen in Draupadi?
It only means that the government has to ban something.
If it wasn’t the Santhal women, it would have been the security forces. Or even if not that, the saffron brigade would have picked up the last story from Shekhar’s collection as an utter disrespect to the President because, in it, the Santhal dancers refuse to dance for the President.
Banning is never the solution
If the government is afraid that people are reading the wrong books, it should definitely do something serious against Chetan Bhagat or Durjoy Dutta. Maybe fund Sahitya Akademi writers and provide them aid and means to get published.
But no, they are going to ban stories that will prove a “threat to the nation” or anything that will “destroy Hindu values”.
Banning a book cannot be the solution to anything. There is art in this country, and artists will get out from this iron fist in some way or the other.
What I don’t get is – at one point the PM is travelling to places on our taxes to make India globalized, yet we are subscribing to that monolith of nationalism, and preservation of identity? It seems a bit off to me.
Are we moving towards a fascist state instead of a democracy? That is what we have to question.
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