Banning Books

By Khushwant Singh

 As soon as I heard of Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran had issued a Fatwa banning ‘The Satanic Verses’ and sentenced its author Salman Rushdie to death, I went out of my way to acquire a copy which I had already read it in manuscript form.

I advised Penguin Viking not to publish it in India. My behaviour may appear to be perverse but it was very human! Forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter, and now that ‘The Satanic Verses’ had been forbidden in India and Muslim countries, it became more readable to the likes of me.

I think Home Ministry officials who decide on what books should be banned should also meet periodically at least once a year to decide which books should have the ban placed on them lifted.

Hasan Saroor, an eminent scholar, has published a long list of books which continue to be banned in India. Among the list are a few I found highly readable and recommended them to my friends. One is ‘Rama Retold’ by Aubrey Menen. Others included: ‘The Lotus and the Robot’ by Arthur Koestler, ‘Shivaji: The Hindu King in Islamic India’ by an American Indologist, following the vandalisation of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. (The Supreme Court lifted the ban a few years later).

As far as I am concerned, no books should be banned in India: it brings a bad name on the country in a freedom-loving world. It should be left to the reader to decide whether or not what he or she has read was, or was not, worth reading. We have a hallowed tradition of what we should be allowed to see and read. If we have free access to erotic sculptures of Khajurano and Konarak and illustrated copies of Kama Sutra who has the right to forbid us continue doing so? Unfortunately the numbers of the right-wing kattar-panthis (bigots) are on the rise. They must be put in their right place the waste-paper basket.

Caste-free UP Election

Let one evil go and another come

Our greatest achievement is our caste-system.

Subjected to godly sneer, superhuman contempt and humiliation

A whole chunk of population treated as sub-human.

Is the biggest trophy that India has won

We, as a nation,

Which can so easily from its past mistakes learn

Most piously use caste-calculation

To win an election;

And of all the places, it is popular most in UP

The heartland of the country.

Be it SP, Congress, BJP or Mayavati

On the use of caste for vote

They have complete unanimity.

They all swear by a secular polity,

With equality of opportunity for everybody,

They are all interested in the progress of the country

For which the division of the State into a thousand castes and sub-castes

Is an absolute necessity –

May I know on this, especially

The opinion of Mulayam and Mayavati?

Have the Last Laugh

During vacations some college boys from South India came to Delhi. They rented a taxi for sight-seeing. The driver was an old Sardarji and boys being boys, they began cracking Sardarji jokes, just to tease the old man. To their surprise, the old fellow remained unperturbed.

At the end of the sight-seeing, they paid the cab hire charges. The Sardar returned the change and he gave each one of them a ten rupee note extra and said, "Sons, since morning you have been telling Sardarji Jokes. I listened to them all and let me tell you, some of them were in bad taste. Still, I don’t mind because I know that you are young and are yet to see the world. But I have one request. I am giving you ten rupees each. Give it to the first Sardar beggar that you come across in this or any other city!!!"

The friend continued, "That ten rupees note is still with me. I could not find a single Sardar begging anywhere."

Sikh contribute: 33 per cent of total income tax, 67 per cent of total charities, 45 per cent of Indian Army + 59,000+Gurudwaras serve langar, free of charge, to over 60 lakh people every day!

And all this when they are only 1.4 per cent of the total Indian population.

(Contributed by Vijendra Gupta, New Delhi)