Sunday, August 01, 2010

Covering Heehs imbroglio can be a more absorbing book

[Menacing intolerance IE: Sunday, August 01, 2010 Soli J. Sorabjee
The ban on James Lane’s biography of Shivaji was struck down by the Supreme Court. It rightly pointed out that in judging the nature of a book it is impermissible to ban it because of a few isolated stray sentences divorced from the context of the main theme of the book. The so-called offence of hurting religious sentiments must be judged on the touchstone of normal balanced individuals and not by the reactions and standards of hyper-sensitive persons who perceive hurt in any and every criticism and are offended by unpalatable comments. Not surprisingly, there was adverse reaction against the Supreme Court judgment in some bigoted quarters. There were intimidatory protests that the book would not be allowed to be sold or distributed in Maharashtra despite the Supreme Court judgment. Regrettably, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra impliedly endorsed this blatant intolerance in his press conference. The result was that the publisher of the book, obviously for considerations of commercial expediency, caved in and agreed to stop distribution of the book. So much for the authority of the Supreme Court judgment and so much for freedom of expression in our country which can be held to ransom by fanatics.]

Without reading a single title that Heehs has so assiduously authored over the years, it is surely unfair to offer a critique of his output; his alleged misadventure in the pages of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, however, has already made history. Reams have since been written on the imbroglio in the public domain, but the story of what transpired behind the scenes can prove to be a more absorbing book, if any intrepid pen pusher so attempts. [TNM]   

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