Salman Rushdie


The Indian government has always made pretentious claims about idealism and socialism, yet goes on banning books – a distortion of the freedom of expression – to claim their supremacy. About 20 books are officially banned in India currently, and imports of many others are denied by the customs department.

But are the bans really worth it? With greater permissiveness and social freedom, uncensored copies of the book are anyway floating freely on internet.

Indian writers and economists have said much harsher things. Yet, in all these years nobody has bothered to take them into consideration. Analysts from Reporters Without Borders rank India 131st in the world in terms in their Press Freedom Index, falling from 80th just 11 years earlier. Here are top 5 books that are censored in India.


1) The Satanic Verses

Amongst the oldest, yet youngest controversy as is evident from incidences of Jaipur literature festival. India was the first Country to ban the Book following the hostile response from the Muslims all over the Globe. He has been in a hiding for over a decade. Fatwa was imposed on Rushdie by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini for demeaning Islam. Rushdie had to live in hiding for nearly a decade.

2) The Great Soul

Joseph Lelyveld, the Pulitzer Prize winner and former executive editor of The New York Times penned a biography, “The Great Soul”, inspired by Gandhi’s life in India and South Africa. The reviews claimed that the book exposed Gandhi’s sexual life and bigoted views. Reacting to it, the book was called for a ban in Gujarat, Gandhi’s hometown has. But imposition of nationwide ban was abjured, citing Lelyveld’s clarification. Still book is not let inside India by customs department.

3) Nine Hours to Rama

Nine Hours to Rama written by historian Wolpert, a professor at University of California. This book is a fictional account of last day of Gandhiji’s lije and focuses on how Nathuram Godse planned Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. It got banned because it exposed the poor security provided to Gandhi, and hinted at possible incompetence and conspiracy.

4) Lady Chatterley’s Lover

“Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence was considered as obscene because it was an account of a women’s illegitimate relationship with her Gardner. It has depiction of sex and politics gave rise to controversies and was unanimously banned in India and Britain (though Britain lifted up the ban). But the ban is not followed as it should be and you can find books in some stored. The court said that the court does not protect those who take delight in “sexual pleasures and erotic writings”.

5) The Polyester Prince

Australian journalist Hamish McDonald wrote this account of Ambani’s rise in 1998, which remained unavailable in India, partly because of concerns that Ambani would sue if the book got released. The books asserted that many of the rules and regulations were turned down to serve his purpose.  An updated version” Ambani and Sons”, was written down which is available in book stores.




Were a long flowing white beard synonymous with immense wisdom, discord would cease to exist and peace would reign supreme. Unfortunately however, that is not as rampant as we would like. On the other hand, the aforementioned white bearded men seem to have an addiction to spice and sensationalism; sentiments they are usually bereft of by virtue of their religious beliefs. As a result these geriatric souls leave no stone unturned in trying to make the most of a scandal.

In such a scenario had Salman Rushdie’s impending arrival in India for the Jaipur Literature Festival not caused a stir, more than just a handful amongst us would’ve sat up and taken notice. Why should his return be such a cause for concern though? We’re all fully aware that India as a country does not dwell in the past and always believes in looking forward; therefore, to find the answer we must go back to the year 1988 when Mr. Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses was released.

Another exercise these mullahs are particularly adept at is misinterpreting any written statement, be it from a novel of from a cookbook for that matter. So it didn’t come as a surprise when they mistook Mr. Rushdie’s choice of title to imply that the Quran itself was being touted as the ‘Satanic Verses’ or when translated in Arabic, ‘verses from evil’.

Anybody who is familiar with Mr. Rushdie’s writing and appreciates it would not run screaming blasphemy to the nearest police station knowing fully well that Satanic Verses is meant to be a fictional piece of work. But that is exactly what happened. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, went to the extent of issuing a fatwa against this modern Islamist. The fatwa called upon Muslims to execute this heretic for he must ‘incur the wrath of God and be unsuccessful in his quest towards maligning the Prophet’. It also served as a warning to those who might be foolish enough to insult the ‘sacred belief of the Muslims’.

Considering the novel was written in English for a Western audience and was much appreciated for the literary skill it displayed, the book along with its author was banned in several countries including India. Moreover, that wasn’t the end of the atrocities. A reward was announced for the one who would ‘terminate that anti-Islamist’. Apart from several assassination attempts on Rushdie, bookstores were bombed, copies of the book were burnt, several translators and publishers were attacked and quite a few were killed.

Whatever the time period, to say the furor was justified would be pushing things more than just a wee bit. This reaction which gave fanaticism an entirely new meaning took half the world with surprise. The concept of freedom of speech and action became the hypocrite’s fable and mullahs were pleased.

Although the fatwa has been withdrawn and Mr. Rushdie has paid a visit to India in 2007 causing not more than a few excited whisperings, elections and a controversy are quite a potent combination. While BSP has turned the EC ruling of covering up Mayawati’s statues to its advantage, the Samajwadi Party in an ingenious move has sought to turn the Rushdie advent as its own trump card. The fact that the Doeband Seminary has demanded that Rushdie be not allowed to attend the Literature Fest later this month has therefore come at the most opportune time. Obviously, since Muslims account for 18% of the vote bank, their sentiments have to be taken into consideration.

What these Politicos and the Fatwa-issuing Mullahs have failed to grasp however is the fact that we are no longer living in the 90s! Much to their dismay the youth, be it Islamic or non-Islamic, condemns this ideology of banning any work of art or culture that may be bold. A shielded atmosphere is regressive and banal in the extreme.

I have a feeling that this year’s Lit Fest will see the maximum turnout. Not because of the literary greats that’ll be gracing the Festival with their presence this year but because of our tendency to revel in the scandalous and the sensational. The hype will make it all the more worth it.