Censorship in India

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In general, censorship in India, which involves the suppression of speech or other public communication, raises issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the Indian constitution.


  • You were merely asked to bend, but you chose to crawl.
    • L.K. Advani about press censorship during the Emergency. Quoted in NYT, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/28/opinion/Indias-Press-Under-Siege.html . Full quote: When Indira Gandhi, India’s prime minister, declared a state of emergency on June 25, 1975, she immediately imposed strict censorship of the press. With defiant exceptions, much of the press caved in quickly to the new rules, prompting L.K. Advani, one of the founders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who was jailed during the emergency, to comment later: “You were merely asked to bend, but you chose to crawl.”
  • Every ban and censorship hurt. But banishment hurts the most. Banishment took away the ground from beneath my feet. What I need now most is a firm footing to stand up somewhere to fight for the freedom of expression. I was banished from both East and West Bengal.
  • Many of my books are banned in Bangladesh. My book was banned in West Bengal too. Its government not only banned my book, it forced me to leave the state too. The new government ban­ned the release of my book Nir­basan in 2012 and a few months ago forced a TV channel called Akash Ath to stop telecast of a mega serial I wrote. The serial was about women’s struggle and how three sisters living in Calcutta fight aga­inst patriarchal oppression to live their lives with dignity and honour. She (Mamata Banerjee) ban­ned me to app­ease some misogynist mullahs.
  • I had expected that the situation in West Bengal will change after Mamata came to power. But I was wrong. I found her harsher than the earlier Left Front government... Politicians are all on the same platform when it comes down to me. I think it’s because they think that if they can satisfy the Muslim fundamentalists they will get votes. I believe I am a victim of votebank politics. This also shows that how weak the democracy is and politicians ask votes by banning a writer ... Even though I am not staying there, she (Banerjee) has not allowed my book ‘Nirbasan’ to be published. Also, she has stopped the broadcast of a TV serial scripted by me after Muslim fundamentalists objected to it. She is not allowing me to enter the state… This is a dangerous opposition ... I wrote to Mamata Banerjee. But there was no response to that… No I am not going to write to her again. I do not think she will consider my request. I feel very hopeless because I expected something positive. I think when it comes down to me, she has similar vision like that of the Left leaders.
  • It was not long before I was visited by officers of the Crimes Department, and not only from Delhi. I was accused of causing communal discord, and threatening the peace of the land. I was arrested, and ordered to seek bail.... I had been arrested in the classic case of Ram Swarup's documented study, "Understanding Islam through Hadis: Religious Faith or Fanaticism?"... There had been loud talk in the book market at Delhi that this book was going to be banned... The Delhi Administration issued a notification in November, 1991, stating that the Hindi translation will stand banned whenever it is published. In March 1992, the same Administration banned the English original also.
    • Commenting on the banning of Ram Swarup's book. Goel, S.R. How I became a Hindu (1993, revised ed.)
  • Conversely, banning this book [Hindu View of Christianity and Islam by Ram Swarup] would send a signal that the present establishment will do what it can to prevent Hinduism from rising up, from regaining self-confidence, from facing the challenge of hostile ideologies.
    • Commenting on the proposed ban of Ram Swarup's book. Elst, K. In Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998, edited by Sita Ram Goel) ISBN 81-85990-55-7
  • A consequence of the negationist orientation of the Indian state's religious policy, is the readiness to ban books critical of Islam at the slightest suggestion by some mullah or Muslim politician. It is symptomatic that India was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, at the insistence of Syed Shahabuddin, MP (in exchange, with some other concessions, for his calling off a march on Ayodhya).
  • The problem of book-banning and censorship on Islam criticism is compounded by the related problem of self- censorship. Thus, when in late 1992, the famous columnist Arun Shourie wanted to publish a collection of his columns on Islamic fundamentalism, esp. the Rushdie and Ayodhya affairs (Indian Controversies), the publisher withdrew at the last moment, afraid of administrative or physical reprisals, and the printer also backed out. Earlier, Shourie had been lucky to find one paper willing to publish these columns, for most Indian newspapers strictly keep the lid on Islam criticism. Hindu society is a terrorized society.
  • In November 1990 there had been proposals in the national parliament and in the state parliament of Uttar Pradesh to ban this first volume of "Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them"... negationist historians will find it difficult to show their faces in public. They stand exposed, and only their control over the media can save their reputation by censoring this critique of their career-long efforts at history falsification.
    • Commenting on the banning of books. Elst, Koenraad. Negationism in India: concealing the record of Islam. 1992
  • Such superstitions which are in flagrant conflict with scientific universalism, should be dealt with by intellectuals, and the state will have done more than its share if it does not impede the broadcasting of their criticism of these superstitions. The state should just refrain from banning books eventhough they hurt the feelings of those steeped in the said superstitions. It should refrain from pressurizing or boycotting or prosecuting people who perform their legitimate task of educating people concerning such superstitions. It should refrain from imposing history-distortions on schoolbooks, i.e. from concealing the truth about the evil effects of such superstitions. (That the Indian state is so far not secular enough to refrain from this sabotage of the intellectual struggle against superstition, is shown in ch. 12)
    • Elst K. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991)
  • [He] made a proposal to attack the problem of communal friction at what he apparently considered its roots. He wanted all press writing about the historical origins of temples and mosques to be banned. And it is true : the discussion of the origins of some mosques is fundamental to this whole issue. For, it reveals the actual workings of an ideology that, more than anything else, has caused countless violent confrontations between the religious communities. However, after the news of this proposal came, nothing was heard of it anymore. I surmise that the proposal was found to be juridically indefensible in that it effectively would prohibit history-writing, a recognized academic discipline of which journalism makes use routinely. And I surmise that it was judged politically undesirable because it would counterproductively draw attention to this explosive topic. The real target of this proposal was the book Hindu Temples : What Happened to Them (A Preliminary Survey) by Arun Shourie and others. In the same period, there has been a proposal in the Rajya Sabha by Congress MP Mrs. Aliya to get this book banned...
    • Commenting on the proposed banning of the book Hindu Temples : What Happened to Them (A Preliminary Survey) by Arun Shourie and others. Koenraad Elst. Ayodhya and after: issues before Hindu society. 1991.
  • They rely on intimidation, It is exactly by tactics of this kind that an earlier book of Mr. Swarup - Understanding Islam Through Hadis - was put out of circulation... November 27, 1990, under the influence of the same intimidation the Delhi Administration declared that, contrary to what it had itself twice decreed, the book was not only objectionable, was deliberately and malicious so!....
    Our response should be three fold. First, whenever an attempt such as this from quarters such as Mr. Shahabuddin is made to stifle free speech, to kill even scholarly inquiry, we must go out of our way and immediately obtain the book....
    Secondly, whenever the intimidators prevail and such a book actually comes to be banned large numbers should take to reprinting it, photocopying it, to circulating it, and discussing its contents.
    The third thing is more necessary, and in the long run will be the complete answer to the intimidators. As long as scholars like Mr. Swarup are few, intimidators can bully weak governments into shutting them one by one. But what will they do if 1,000, scholars are to do work of the same order? This is the way to deal with intimidators. Let 1,000 scholars carry on work Mr. Swarup has pioneered.
    • Commenting on the proposed ban of Ram Swarup's book. Arun Shourie: " How should we respond?", syndicated article, also republished in: Freedom of expression – Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998, edited by Sita Ram Goel)
  • A case in which the English version of a major book by a renowned Muslim scholar, the fourth Rector of one of the greatest centres of Islamic learning in India, listing some of the mosques, including the Babri Masjid, which were built on the sites and foundations of temples, using their stones and structures, is found to have the tell-tale passages censored out; The book is said to have become difficult to get;... Evasion, concealment, have become a national habit. And they have terrible consequences... Each reference to each of these mosques having been constructed on the sites of temples with, as in the case of the mosque at Benaras, the stones of the very temple which was demolished for that very purpose have been censored out of the English version of the book! Each one of the passages on each one of the seven mosques! No accident that... why would anyone have thought it necessary to remove these passages from the English version-that is the version which was more likely to be read by persons other than the faithful?... . Those who proceed by such cynical calculations sow havoc for all of us, for Muslims, for Hindus, for all. Those who remain silent in the face of such cynicism, such calculations help them sow the havoc. Will we shed our evasions and concealments? Will we at last learn to speak and face the whole truth?
    • Commenting on a case of alleged censorship. Arun Shourie: Hideaway Communalism (Indian Express, February 5, 1989) Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Volume I.
  • The most extensive deletions are ordered in regard to the chapter on ‘Aurangzeb’s policy on religion’. Every allusion to what he actually did to the Hindus, to their temples, to the very leitmotif of his rule – to spread the sway of Islam – are directed to be excised from the book... In a word, no forcible conversions, no massacres, no destruction of temples. Just that Hinduism had created an exploitative, casteist society. Islam was egalitarian. Hence the oppressed Hindus embraced Islam! Muslim historians of those times are in raptures at the heap of kafirs who have been dispatched to hell. Muslim historians are forever lavishing praise on the ruler for the temples he has destroyed, for the hundreds of thousands he has got to see the light of Islam. Law books like The Hedaya prescribe exactly the options to which these little textbooks alluded. All whitewashed away. Objective whitewash for objective history. And today if anyone seeks to restore truth to these textbooks, the shout, ‘Communal rewriting of history’.
  • How does this concern square with the guidelines issued by their West Bengal government... - "Muslim rule should never atttact any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned?
    • Commenting on censorship in textbooks. Arun Shourie - Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud
  • Ram Swarup, now in his seventies, is a scholar of the first rank... Today, anyone reading those critiques would characterise them as prophetic. But thirty years ago so noxious was the intellectual climate in India that all he got was abuse, and ostracisation... His work on Hinduism and on Islam and Christianity has been equally scholarly. And what is more pertinent to the point I want to urge, it has been equally prophetic. No one has ever refuted him on facts, but many have sought to smear him and his writing. They have thereby transmuted the work from mere scholarship into warning. ... Newspapers carried a little paragraph a fortnight ago that his book.. had been banned, and all its copies forfeited, on the ground that it "deliberately and maliciously" outrages "the religious feelings of the Muslims by insulting their religion and their religious beliefs." The forfeiture is exactly the sort of thing which had landed us where we are: where intellectual inquiry is shut out; where our traditions are not examined, and reassessed; and where as a consequence there is no dialogue. It is exactly the sort of thing too which foments reaction. (...)"Freedom of expression which is legitimate and constitutionally protected," it [the Supreme Court] declared last year, "cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group or people." To curtail it in the face of threats of demonstrations and processions or threats of violence "would amount," the Court said, "to the negation of the rule of law and surrender to blackmail and intimidation.
    • Syndicated article written in reaction to the banning of a book written by Ram Swarup and published by Voice of India. (Ram Swarup's Understanding Islam through Hadis). Arun Shourie: Fomenting Reaction. 8 November 1990. Quoted from: Freedom of expression – Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998, edited by Sita Ram Goel) [3]
  • There has for some time past been in evidence a sinister move in certain quarters to suppress, conceal or eliminate primary sources in Arabic, Persian and Urdu testifying to the temple demolition. ... The Urdu version is found to have been withdrawn from circulation and even removed from several libraries. There is an English translation also, with which undue liberties have been taken. ... An Urdu translation of the work was published ... at least two more editions came out in 1979 and 1981 respectively... [but] the account ... is conspicuous by its absence in the 1981 edition. ... Dr. Kakorawi rightly laments that 'suppression of any part of any old composition or compilation like this can create difficulties and misunderstandings for future historians and researchers. ... The original edition of Mirza Rajab ... contained a reference to the demolition of the Rama temple. Sayyid Masud Hasan Rizwi Adib omitted the reference altogether in its second edition.... As a matter of fact, black-out of well documented, acutely argued contributions ... continues with renewed vigour. A certain leading library of the country of late instituted an enquiry as to how a particular book came to be utilized by the Vishva Hindu Parishad.
  • It is a pity that thanks to our thoughtless 'secularism' and waning sense of history, such primary sources of medieval history .. are presently in danger of suppression or total extinction. Instead of launching sustained search and research in this behalf, 'secular' historians are going about dismissing relevant data out of hand, imputing unfounded motive to the recorders themselves. The state in general and the universites in particular must do something to protect and retrieve such invaluable documents from unscrupulous hands.
    • Commenting on a case of censorship. Harsh Narain The Ayodhya temple-mosque dispute: Focus on Muslim sources (1993)
  • For example in Pakistan, as recently as October 31, 1991, all the five judges of the Highest Islamic Court ruled that the punishment for defiling the Rasul was death and not life imprisonment as the prevailing penal law provided. But in countries like India where the Shariat law no longer prevails, but where Muslim opinion counts, any critical discussion of the Prophet and Islam is regarded as lacking in good taste. It is unsecular, a great lapse from accepted ideological morality. Critical writings are as a rule edited out and even often banned.
    • Ram Swarup, Swords to sell a god, ( 16 June 1992 in The Telegraph) quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1998). Freedom of expression: Secular theocracy versus liberal democracy. [4]
  • Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned.
    • West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, Circular, 1989. Quoted in Arun Shourie - Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud, HarperCollins, 1998. Also quoted: in Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 8. Quoted in Rosser, Yvette In Saha, S. C. (2004). Religious fundamentalism in the contemporary world: Critical social and political issues, p 273. Quoted in Rao, R. N. (2001). Coalition conundrum: The BJP's trials, tribulations, and triumphs. also in Y.Rosser, Islamisation of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks, 2003. p 17.
  • Not long ago, all the copies of the Hindi edition of my book, Understanding Islam Through Hadis, were confiscated by the police. ... The civil liberties wallahs, otherwise a vocal lot, have been eloquently silent on this and similar bans. But then they are active only in certain preferred directions, on behalf of certain preferred sections and for the benefit of certain preferred ideas.
    • Ram Swarup, Hinduism and monotheistic religions (2009)
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