Explore eight controversial books that were banned in India due to their political, religious, or social content. This article dives into the reasons behind these bans and questions the implications for free speech and intellectual freedom.
Updated Sep 4, 2023 | 05:00 PM IST
8 Most Controversial Books of All Time and Why They Were Banned (Credit – Freepik)
Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses
Due to Rushdie’s heritage and the country’s unique literary legacy, the work was faced with immediate censorship in India, where it would have expected a large and welcoming readership. The Indian government prohibited ‘The Satanic Verses’ due of fears about public order disruptions and upsetting the Muslim population. The restriction generated various difficult issues, including the boundaries of free expression, the government’s role in regulating literature, and religious communities’ rights to preserve their beliefs.
The Satanic Verses (Credit – Instagram)
V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness
Stanley Wolpert’s Nine Hours to Rama
‘Nine Hours to Rama’ by Stanley Wolpert focuses on the nine hours preceding up to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, one of India’s most venerated personalities. The book, which was published in 1962, aims to dive into the psyche of Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s killer, as well as the social and psychological factors surrounding the death. The Indian government, on the other hand, banned the book on the grounds that it misrepresented historical facts and could foment civil unrest. The representation of Gandhi and his assassin was too contentious, especially given the national culture surrounding Gandhi, which is one of respect.
Hamish McDonald’s The Polyester Prince
‘The Polyester Prince’ by Hamish McDonald is an unauthorised biography of Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Industries and one of India’s most powerful businesspeople. The book digs at Ambani’s spectacular climb from petrol station attendant to industrial billionaire. While the story is compelling, it also touches on the less savoury aspects of Ambani’s career, such as claims of crony capitalism, unethical business practises, and strong-arm methods used against competitors. The book was never published in India due to legal objections, chiefly stemming from its depiction of Ambani’s contacts with politicians and claims of corporate misconduct.
Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf
Adolf Hitler’s autobiography ‘Mein Kampf’ outlines his philosophy, which subsequently led to World War II and the Holocaust. Though the book was not initially prohibited in India, it was subsequently banned due to concerns about hate speech and the promotion of anti-Semitic and fascist ideology. Some suggest that the ban was also impacted by international pressure, given that the book is banned or restricted in a number of other nations. Despite its availability in some groups, the book is nonetheless viewed as a symbol of ethnic hatred and is considered harmful for creating division.
Mein Kampf (Credit – Instagram)
Taslima Nasrin’s Lajja
‘Lajja,’ which translates as ‘Shame,’ was written by Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin. The book goes into the life of a Hindu family persecuted in Bangladesh, reflecting the country’s greater backdrop of institutional violence against Hindus. While the book received critical acclaim for its provocative social satire, it was banned in India. The administration was concerned that the book would cause communal strife and turmoil. The ban was a sensitive topic since it put freedom of expression against the right to maintain social harmony.
Pandit Chamupati’s Rangila Rasul
‘Rangila Rasul,’ published in 1927, is a controversial book that had enormous ramifications, including the establishment of blasphemy laws in what is now Pakistan. Pandit Chamupati’s book offers a humorous look at the Prophet Muhammad’s personal life. The publishing of the book sparked widespread outcry among Muslims worldwide, not just in the Indian subcontinent. As a result, the book was banned in India in order to avoid religious conflict and to respect the views of a major percentage of its population.
Lourenço de Sá’s Who Killed Gandhi?
The book ‘Who Killed Gandhi?’ by Lourenço de Sá investigates the events surrounding Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. While the book is intended to be an investigative narrative, it has been criticised for purported factual fabrication and defamation of historical people linked with the incident. The book was prohibited by the Indian government in order to protect Gandhi’s legacy and the historical narratives surrounding his assassination. The ban’s opponents claim that it stifles free speech and scholarly inquiry.
Book banning is a complicated problem that frequently raises concerns about the delicate balance between free expression and social responsibility. While these bans are meant to promote social harmony and religious freedom, they also stifle debate and limit intellectual freedom. As we remember these works for their contentious nature, let us also remember the value of discourse and the free interchange of ideas in any democratic society.
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