The RSS on censorship

A remarkable opinion published in the Organiser, mouthpiece of the RSS, has vigorously opposed censorship generally, and the ban on Joseph Lelyveld’s book on Gandhi in particular. It is not everyday that one hears of such unflinching endorsement of a core liberal position (even if for slightly difference reasons) by the Right. Some excerpts:

Most of those demanding a ban are unlikely to have read the book. In fact, it is not yet available in the country. The entire controversy was triggered by a review published in Britain’s sensationalist tabloid Daily Mail. The review said the author claimed that Gandhiji was bi-sexual and deeply in love with Hermann Kallenbach. It also said Gandhiji made racial comments while he was imprisoned in South Africa. Rajmohan Gandhi and Tushar Gandhi, grandson and great-grandson of the Mahatma respectively dubbed the clamour for a ban on the book as “un-Gandhian”.

Irrational demands for banning books without reading them have, unfortunately, become a habit with us. Censorship is counter-productive. It was proved beyond a shadow of doubt during the hated Emergency during which even wild rumours were believed as Gospel truth. Same is true with films and books. The more you suppress, the higher the curiosity. We saw that with the James Laine book on the Hindu icon Shivaji. Traditionally, Hindu society has been open and has encouraged thinkers and philosophers to raise questions about fundamental issues pertaining to religion and society. Tolerating, even respecting, contrary viewpoints has been our ancient tradition. People’s anger can be understood if the intention were to malign an icon or to heap insults on deities and faiths. That is not the case so far as Great Soul is concerned. Hence censorship or ban is totally uncalled for and unjustified.

Written by
Tarunabh Khaitan
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  • Not to celebrate the Hindu right in any way, but its worth nothing that one of the earliest presidents of the Civil Liberties Union was N.C Chatterjee, President of the Hindu Mahasabha. I guess if you lived in imminent danger of being preventively detained by Nehru, you would be for civil liberties too 🙂

  • Personally, the life of Mahatma Gandhi has been a beacon and inspiration for me, as the milestones he has achieved are unparalleled in the world, even today. However, it is not correct or appropriate to ban a book just because it holds a completely different view. There cannot be any justification for doing so.

  • very interesting rohit – thanks for bringing the historical perspective. in fact, come to think of it, the swatantra party and the janata party had connections with the civil rights movement, didn't they? of course, if the Right's love for civil liberties is restricted to protecting itself, it is not a principled position. but here is an interesting historical research waiting to be done (or has it already been done?).

    sanand, i am not sure the views attributed to the author do actually make him any less inspirational. i fail to see how gandhi's bisexuality, even if true, makes him any less great. on the race question, i think we have make allowances for his gradual moral evolution. in any case, these are views attributed to the author, which he has denied. and i haven't yet read the book to decide whether he actually suggests whether gandhi was bisexual and/or racist.