Did You Know These Books Are Banned in India – I
Should books by Indian writers be banned in their own country? Should books by any writer be banned in India? These are controversies that never die and history keeps repeating itself with books being banned even today. Books on politics, politicians, celebrities, religion, even fiction have been barred to reach our readers. We are no judge of right and wrong, but a reader must have the freedom to pick up books that are brave in dealing with wrangling topics.
Let us have a peek at few books that are brilliant, relevant, amazingly written and yet were banned in India. You might have read any or all of them before they got banned, but if you still haven’t, go search for it and explore the elusive.
- An Area of Darkness by V.S. Naipaul (1964) – Naipaul is a British citizen born and brought up in Trinidad and Tobago with his roots back in India. If this wasn’t enough, his words have always made him controversy’s favourite child. A Booker Prize and later the Nobel Prize for Literature didn’t help in clearing the puddles he’d already stepped into. An Area of Darkness is a semi-autobiographical travelogue of Naipaul’s adventures in India. He visited the country of his ancestors for the first time, met strange holy men, drank cheap brandy in Bombay and went through a series of sufferings. Though his experience wasn’t pleasant, it led him to write a crisp book that was banned in India for its negative portrayal of the country.
Is it still banned? No. Pan Macmillan re-published it in 2012 and is available on Amazon India.
- Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988) – He’s probably the most controversial writer in English born in India. Of Kashmiri descent and brought up in Bombay, Rushdie began his career as a copy writer. Having already received the Booker Prize for Midnight’s Children in 1981, he weaved magic realism with religion in Satanic Verses and India was the first country to ban the book. It is based in parts on Prophet Muhammad’s life and the religious connotations infuriated people all over the world even inciting death threats or fatwa to the writer, while the book went on to be a bestseller in UK, even managing the Man Booker Prize shortlist in 1988.
Is it still banned? Oh yes! The online book portals don’t even have it listed or the blurb displayed.
- Nine Hours to Rama by Stanley Wolpert (1962) – A novel, written by famous Indologist Stanley Wolpert, was banned for sale in India as it dealt with characters whose lapse in security led to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Few even suggest that the book justified the actions of Nathuram Godse, the killer of Gandhi. Well, we cannot comment on that as living in India, we have no access to this work of fiction. Wolpert has penned a few non-fiction books like Jinnah of Pakistan, which is subsequently banned in Pakistan! While he studied and taught history of the Indian subcontinent, his books didn’t get an entry in either country. Nine Hours to Rama has been made into a feature film in 1963.
Is it still banned? Yes. Not even listed in the online book portals.
- Lajja by Taslima Nasrin (1993) – The book created more than ripples when it was published in Bangladesh. A Muslim woman writer penning thoughts against religious fundamentalism was unheard of in our subcontinent. The book was banned and Taslima was expelled from Bangladesh. She sought refuge in India but a group of writers from Calcutta didn’t let her live in peace there too. After twenty years in exile, Taslima is still on the run. She has published more books, and one of them, Dwikhandito, was banned in West Bengal. Lajja is not just a book, it’s an experience of survival as an educated urban woman with more hurdles than rural belles.
Is it still banned? No. Do read the English translation, available on Amazon India.
- Jinnah: India-Partition Independence by Jaswant Singh (2009) – When a prominent member of a political party writes a controversial book, it is deemed unethical in a country like India. Jaswant Singh wrote this book on India’s independence, the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah’s role in it, his justification for a separate nation and about Nehru’s policies that triggered the partition. This is what got the book banned in Gujarat and led an expulsion of Jaswant Singh from Bharatiya Janata Party. The author was highly criticized for writing such a book justifying the partition and received many brickbats. However, the ban was lifted and he was called back in BJP.
Is it still banned? No. Quite available in bookstores and Amazon India.
There are more such books and the list goes long. Watch this space as I intend to come back with more controversies and hushed topics later.