Congress hits back at Spanish author

"Moro is exploiting somebody's privacy for personal commercial gains and money and then talking of censorship and freedom of expression. He is a perpetrator, who is pretending to be a victim. He is worse than devil quoting scriptures," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, who had sent a legal notice to Moro on Gandhi's behalf, told reporters here.

The Congress reaction came after Moro publicly accused the party of terrorising Indian firms to not publish his book EL Saro Rojo (The Red Saree). "I have written a fictionalised account of her life but that doesn't mean it's not truthful. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and his watchdogs and his company are trying to terrorise Indian publishing houses into not publishing my book. They will not succeed is all that I can say," Moro alleged.

The Spanish author has stirred a storm with what he claimed to be a fictionalised account of Gandhi's life but has been described by Congress chief's lawyers as containing "untruths, half truths, falsehoods and defamatory statements".

The book was first published in Spanish in October 2008 and has been translated in Italian, French and Dutch. In the book, he refers to her origin in Italy, her marriage to Rajiv Gandhi and the difficult times she went through after his assassination and her entry into politics.

Singhvi said that if Moro's book is published in India in any language, the right to seek legal redressal will be exercised.

He claimed that the author had agreed to publish a disclaimer in each of the book that the book was not written with Gandhi's consent but he later "backed out" as Moro did not want to carry the disclaimers in other mediums like films, internet and interviews.

Singhvi claimed that Moro had admitted to defamation by calling the book a fictionalised work as "if it concerns a living person, it has to be either factual or written with one's consent".

"The book fails on both these counts....a fictionalised biography about a living person is an oxymoron...If you do not have permission of a person before writing his or biography and your writing shows disrespect to her, it automatically comes under defamation, which has happened in this case," he added.

He rejected the contention that Congress is threatening the Spanish author saying "if Moro considers legal notice as a threat, he needs to understand law and English words...he is knowingly distorting".

The Congress spokesperson, who is also incharge of the AICC Legal and Human Rights Cell, said that he has neither met Moro nor spoken to him. Singhvi said the notice was sent with the consent of Congress President and there is no difference between the party president and the party over it.

Asked whether Congress will disallow publication of the book in India, Singhvi shot back, "Congress believes in law but do you think there is any difference between Congress Party and Congress President. Do you think, the notice has been sent without her consent?"

Singhvi said that in the legal notice, Moro has been challenged to justify any of the over 20 incidents, which have been written about in his book but there is "deafening silence from his side".

The party spokesperson also attacked BJP for its criticism of Congress over the issue and referred to the expulsion of senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh over his book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

"We are amused at BJP jumping into a purely personal matter. Who is talking of freedom speech? Those, who expelled their own member for writing a book, who did not commit defamation of any living person or those who went to streets against the paintings of M F Hussein, of those who stopped the screening of Hindi film Parjania in Gujarat," Singhvi said.

A senior party leader, meanwhile, rejected the argument that the manuscript of the book was sent to Sonia Gandhi for consent but she did not reply to it.

"If I do not reply to the manuscript does it mean I agree. Why can't it be taken otherwise. Moreover Gandhi did not receive any such book," the leader said.
In the legal notice, Gandhi's lawyers have accused Moro of indulging in "gross prevarication and distortion".

His lawyers have objected to Moro writing that the Hindu priests refused to allow Gandhi to be present at the cremation (following Rajiv Gandhi's death). Gandhi's lawyers have also registered their objections to certain portions of the book which talk about emergency and link her with it and another one quoting Sanjay Gandhi making a defamatory statement during his apprenticeship in the UK.

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