Can a book offend the memory of a dead man? Going by most book bans in India, it seems so. It is another matter that to most observers, the politics of such bans is about banal accusations and personal whims than anything else. The ban in Gujarat on Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah is certainly whimsical.
Most bans begin either with administrative or political fears of unrest (an example being Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses) or the whim of a political leader. Jawaharlal Nehru’s ban of Ramayana as Told by Aubrey Menen being an example of the latter.
The ban on Singh’s book is squarely in the class of Nehruvian whims. How can a book that has no more than seven or eight references to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, by the author’s admission, hurt his memory? In a TV debate on Thursday, a Gujarat government minister, Jay Narayan Vyas, could give no reasonable answer.
He cannot. For there is no link between banning a book and larger public good. It only gives satisfaction to those who impose a ban. Citizens are not harmed by reading books.