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Are we a nation of bans and censorship?

Are we a nation of bans and censorships? Is India not ready to accomodate voice of dissent? Or is it merely a matter of whim of an individual or a group? asked the readers and here's what they responded. Bollywood Banwagon |List of some banned books

delhi Updated: Apr 07, 2012 02:11 IST

Soon after banning English newspapers in state libraries, the West Bengal government decided to ban German philosopher Marx from the higher secondary history syllabus.

Backing the ban, the head of the school education syllabus committee, Avik Majumdar said, "we have tried to give our history syllabus a balanced approach. If there was any excess of anything, including Marx, it has to be done away with".

The German philosopher has been under attack since last summer when the 34-year old communist rule was swept away by the rising tide of the Trinamool Congress.

India has witnessed a number of instances of ban on books, films, plays and ideologies in the last two decade. From Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses to MF Husain's nude paintings of Hindu godessess, from Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal's adaptation of American play Vagina Monologues to Vijay Tendulkar's Marathi masterpiece Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy and from NRI filmmaker Deepa Mehta to Bollywood director Anurag Kashyap, India has seen a series of bans, censorships, court cases, allegations, threats and violence.

Are we a nation of bans and censorships? Is India not ready to accomodate voice of dissent? Do we really get 'hurt' by an induvidual's opinion on religion, morality and social conduct? Or is it merely a matter of whim of an individual or a group? asked the readers and here's their response.

Are Indians incapable of dissent and criticism?

When BJP veteran Jaswant Singh in his book titled Jinnah: India Partition Independence said, Pandit Nehru's centralised policy was responsible for partition of India and Mohammad Ali Jinnah was portrayed as a demon by India for the partition, he was dismissed from his party. The book was banned by the Gujarat govt in the state.

In our survey, 59 % people agreed that Indians are incapable of dissent and criticism while 38 % thought otherwise. Three per cent respondents had no opinion.

Is freedom of expression under threat in the country?

Who would know it better than celebrated painter late MF Husain. His depiction of Hindu goddesses in nude earned him eight criminal cases. His house was attacked and exhibition vandalised by Hindu groups. Death threats and a charge of hurting sentiments of people, forced Husain to leave the country. He died in self-exile in 2011.

The ever controversial author Salman Rushdie has been unwelcome in India for his open criticism of Islam. Brickbats aside, The Satanic Verses got him fatwa and death threats since it was published in 1988. And the controversy refuses to die down even after 24 years. He was stopped from attending Jaipur Literature Festival in January this year after Muslim groups threatened violence.

In our survey, a whopping 76 % responded 'Yes' freedom of expression is under threat in India, while a meagre 20 % felt it was not the case. Four per cent of the people could not decide.

Who should decide what to ban in the country?

In the backdrop of religious bodies, state governments and regulatory bodies like censor board objecting to artists, plays, films, books, essays, ideologies being taught in schools and colleges, the question arises who should decide what to ban in the country.

Though 41 % of our respondents believed and independent tribunal should look into objectionable content, 52% respondents said nobody should decide what to ban and nothing should be banned. Only 7 % respondents believed the government is the best agency to regulate objectionable content.

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