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Why The Jharkhand Government Banned A Book On Tribals, Published Two Years Ago

The CM has also initiated legal action against the author.

13/08/2017 8:55 AM IST | Updated 13/08/2017 8:56 AM IST
Amazon/ Book cover

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das and his Bharatiya Janata Party government have decided to ban a book called 'The Adivasi Will Not Dance', that was published two years ago by Hansda Showvendra Sekhar.

The authorities have accused Sekhar of denigrating the Adivasi culture and portraying Santhal women in a 'bad light'.

The author, who has won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2015 for his novel, 'The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey', is a Santhal, and works as a doctor in Pakur, close to Ranchi. The author says that the series of short stories in the book highlights the plight of the state's santhal population, especially women, who are subjected to inhuman sexual exploitation when they migrate to other states for work.

The chief minister said that he decided to ban the book so that the "mostly illiterate, mostly non-readers of English who are the people of Jharkhand can be protected from this book," reports The Telegraph.

On Friday, at the Jharkhand Assembly, the opposition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha called for a ban of the book. By evening, the chief minister then directed Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma to seize all copies of the book.

The chief minister also ordered that a First Information Report be filed against Shekhar, PTI reported.

"The chief minister late Friday night asked the chief secretary to order banning the book. He has also sought legal actions against the author, printer and publisher of the book," a CMO official told Hindustan Times.

The campaign to vilify the author's work has been gathering force. In the last couple of weeks, the author has faced trolling, threats, open letters and burning of his effigy.

However, he has his supporters too. A group of Adivasi writers and academics wrote a strong letter protesting the persecution of Shekhar. Times Of India reports that the writers in their letter said that they have passed around the book to their Santhal friends, and none of them found it to be 'pornographic'.

"All of them, without exception, said the story was painful, disturbing and sad, which made them reflect on the difficult, complex lives our Adivasi women live. This story could be about exploitation, choices borne of desperate conditions or free will, but all it did was evoke tears, a lump in the throat and profound grief. Not one of the readers said the story sexually aroused them," said the letter.

Ruchir Joshi, in his editorial for The Hindu, writes that when the book was published two years ago, it caused no upheaval among the Adivasis of the State. Calling the argument for banning the book a 'lie', Joshi writes, "It's a lie because a book cannot 'insult' a religion, a god, a prophet, a people, an ethnic group, a caste, or a country; a book is a book, and you can choose to read it or not; a book doesn't open by itself, it stays shut until someone chooses to pick it up and read it; a book does not collar you in the street or on a village path; a book does not spit in your face, 'outrage your modesty' or assault you."

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