Days after book ban, Prez bats for tolerance

Days after book ban, Prez bats for tolerance

President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday asked people to be “uncompromising” in rejecting “intolerance, prejudice and hatred”, noting that history and traditions had always celebrated the “argumentative” Indian, not the “intolerant” Indian.

“Multiple views, thoughts and philosophies have competed with each other peacefully for centuries in our country and freedom of speech is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution,” he said, inaugurating World Book Fair here.
The President’s remarks came following a decision of Penguin India to withdraw and pulp all the copies of “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” authored by an American scholar and Indologist Wendy Doniger, as part of a court-backed settlement with Shiksha Bachao Andolan (SBA).  The SBA had filed cases against the publisher and the writer, objecting to the contents of the book.

“We must be uncompromising in rejecting intolerance, prejudice and hatred. Book fairs such as this should remind us that our history and traditions have always celebrated the argumentative Indian and not the intolerant Indian,” the President said.

India’s pluralism and social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity has been the greatest strength of the country and a “multiple” source of inspiration for every Indian, he added.

The nine-day book festival, jointly organised by the National Book Trust, Ministry of Human Resource Development and India Trade Promotion Organisation, has the theme, “Kathasagara: Celebrating Children`s Literature”.

“An international book fair of this magnitude is one of the best manifestations of India’s liberal, democratic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and secular society where competing ideas and ideologies have equal space. These values constitute the essence of India. We must do everything possible to preserve, protect, promote and nurture these ideals,” he said.
Circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the Doniger’s book have drawn criticism from various quarters with many authors and activists noting that it was a campaign to drown all questioning voices and prepare the ground for a chauvinistic and communal presentation of history and culture.

A section of writers’ group also criticised the publisher for accepting a court-backed settlement with SBA.

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