ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Censorship through the Ages

The Writer, the Reader and the State: Literary Censorship in India by Mini Chandran, New Delhi, California, London and Singapore: Sage Publications, 2017; pp xxxv + 191, `695.


Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write.” This was how the Madras High Court concluded its landmark ruling in July 2016, in S Tamilselvan v The Government of Tamil Nadu, where, in question, was a ban on Perumal Murugan’s Tamil book, Madhorubagan, and its English translation, One Part Woman. Now, just over a year later, it is difficult not to view the court’s verdict as anything but an aberration. Censorship continues to be rampant, and the judiciary still sees the right to free speech, not as a trump, but as a liberty exercisable at the sole command of the state. After all, scarcely a year had passed since the Madras High Court’s ruling in Murugan’s case, when the Supreme Court, which sits at the apex of India’s judiciary, refused

to overturn a ban enforced by the Government of Karnataka on the spiritual leader Maate Mahadevi’s book, Basava Vachana Deepthi. Mahadevi’s book was banned because the government argued that she had changed the pen name of Lord Basaveshwara from “Kudalasangamadeva” to “Lingadeva,” which was, according to it, likely to hurt the feelings and sentiments of the “Veerashaiva” community in the state. When Mahadevi petitioned the Karnataka High Court, it told her that she had no right to “impose her philosophy on others.” Of what use then, we might wonder, is a right to free speech? “[Mahadevi] can certainly publish a book containing her own philosophy, but certainly she cannot speak her philosophy through some other person who is held in high esteem by a particular class of society,” the high court added, somewhat paradoxically.

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Updated On : 3rd Apr, 2018
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