First, we had Right To Information Act, then, Freedom of Information Act and, now, it’s high time for us to come up with The Right To Offend Act as part of our fundamental rights as human beings. This is what gentlemen of the likes of Dina nath Batra of Siksha Bachao Andolan seem to be telling us. The Bat’ ra man is reveling in glory after being in cahoot with Penguin India for the successful ban of the book, The Hindu: An Alternative History.
The self-anointed guardians of Hindu religion, obviously suffering from the myth of knowing too much in the wake of their limited education on scriptures, are telling us that they have the birth right to decide what we should and shouldn’t read. Why? Our inquisitive minds will be polluted for reading about the tales of Hinduism, women and sexuality because it has violated the sanctity of Hindu religion. Wow! The learned gentleman, Batra, served as a teacher and I wonder at the kind of education dispensed to his subject, err sorry, students. I was watching the interview of Mr Batra on NDTV and burst out laughing at his smart logic that reading the book will pollute young minds. This gentleman has a strange sense of Indian nationalism with reference made to Kashmir during the interview. He tells us, unabashedly, that his organization has the monopoly and exclusive right in delivering and imposing Gyaan (knowledge) on us.
However, the man seems to forget that Hinduism is a way of life and not just a religion. What’s worse is the crime committed by Penguin India who has become a silent conspirator by having an out of court arrangement with Siksha Bachao Andalon to burn copies of the book. Isn’t it the same Penguin India who went along to publish Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses despite waves of protest? The idea is not whether to agree or disagree with what books like The Hindus: An Alternate History or Satanic Verses contain. I may or not condone the book content but it is a crime for you to decide what should I read or not. As someone who love creative writing and reading, it’s my fundamental right to have the personal liberty to choose reading or writing materials. Who are you to impose your fundamentalist cum extremist views on me?
I feel that I can debate the contents of books at length or for that matter dispute about facts which were misinterpreted for some reason or another in books penned by the likes of Wendy Doniger, Taslima Nashreen or Salman Rushdie. I spoke to a scholar friend who is well versed in Sanskrit and who pointed out at some inaccuracies in Doniger book but we agree that it’s ridiculous to ban the book on account of someone taking offense to the content.
We can debate lengthily on the facts pertained to the writings of the book. But, banning a book is simply not an example of a tolerant society. Faiths such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity carry tolerant views but, unfortunately, the self appointed moral guardians decide what is best for us in a society that pride itself in being called secular and liberal. Karl Marx was wrong in calling religion the opium of the people but it’s rather the food of a privileged few who has the sole right of deciding on morality, telling us sex is wrong and should be banned.