Friday, September 04, 2009

Gujarat High Court removes ban on Jaswant Singh's book

A democratic country believes by certain principles; one of the most important ones is to recognize freedom of speech, and make that a corner-store of policy. There are certain real world considerations that come into this freedom of speech (one classic example is that of hate speech, where you would certainly like to control such freedom of expression), but such considerations should be only after a lot of thought, not based on political thinking.
The ban and entire treatment of Jaswant Singh's book was totally an expression of politics. The book, 'Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence' tries to portray a different thought on the role of the key players at the time of partition, and re-evaluates the role of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Nehru, and Jinnah. In official reading of history from the Indian side, Jinnah is the arch-villain, and Nehru was the one who reluctantly agreed to partition, even though it cast a huge emotional hole in him.
Jaswant Singh takes a fresher look at all this, portraying each of these monumental figures as people with a grey side to their character, in the sense that Nehru and Sardar Patel also had a role to play in the movement towards partition. And it was this depiction of history, especially the role of Patel, that caused a huge uproar. Without any due process, just on the basis of a book (and almost repeating what Advani had said earlier about Jinnah), Jaswant Singh was cast aside from the BJP and not even given a chance to present his case. And in further political moves, the Gujarat Government promptly banned the book for causing the depiction of Sardar Patel in a negative light.
It is this decision by the Gujarat Government that was over-turned by the court, claiming that the decision was invalid, and did not present a valid case. However, since the court allowed the Gujarat Government to file a fresh notification, one can expect that the Government will do so again. The Gujarat Government does not want it depicted that a high ranking BJP member wrote a book denigrating Sardar Patel and the Government was not seen to be taking any action.
All this is nothing but politics. From what I have read of the book, it does not go into any kind of hate speech, and does not provoke any kind of lowering of respect of the nation. At the same time, we as a nation should be strong enough to handle any such book that could present other sides of our previous god-like leaders.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:53 PM