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State govt, RR run for cover

mumbai Updated: Jul 10, 2010 00:46 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
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The Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban on the sale of American author James Laine’s controversial biography on Maratha warrior king Shivaji had the state government, specifically Home Minister R.R. Patil, running for cover on Friday.

Patil, the prime mover for banning the biography, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India in January 2004, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, is under attack from hardline Hindu organisations such as the Sambhaji Brigade and Maratha Mahasangh.

These are the same outfits Patil had protected in 2003 and 2004 in the events leading to the ban on the book.

“Patil had moved all around the state before the elections asking for votes and taking credit for the ban. Now, he must publicly apologise and resign for this humiliation,’’ Pravin Gaikwad, spokesperson for the Sambhaji Brigade said.

The Maratha Mahasangh has backed this demand.

The Sambhaji Briagde had vandalised Pune-based Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) for providing research material to Laine. There was public outrage after the attack but the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government was not keen on cracking down on the organisation.

Within a week of the attack, Patil — he was home minister then too — announced a ban on the book and registered offences against the publisher and author.

Riding on popular sentiment, Patil did not make any serious attempt to book members of Sambhaji Brigade.

Patil got good political mileage from the issue and after the election, he was rewarded with the post of deputy chief minister.

NCP Member of Parliament Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th descendent of Shivaji, who has been out of favour with his party’s senior leaders, leads these organisations and protests have already started in his hometown, Satara.

Shashikant Pawar, president of Maratha Mahasangh, said, “Publishers and booksellers will not sell the book in Maharashtra despite the Supreme Court’s verdict.”

The Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Bharatiya Janata Party will also attack the government and Patil on the first day of the Legislature’s monsoon session on Monday. The saffron alliance will demand Patil’s resignation.

Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said his party will not allow the book to be sold in the market. “We should show the book distributors that we Marathi-speaking are Mahara-shtra and Shivaji lovers,” he said. “They should not look for business in selling a book that insults the great Maratha warrior.”

MNS chief Raj Thackeray also warned bookstores against selling the book. “Let them dare to keep the books in their shops. We will show them their place, MNS style,” said Thackeray.

(With inputs from Yogesh Joshi)