After a judge’s remarks went viral, the Bombay High Court had to clarify on Thursday that he was not referring to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace but a book titled War and Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoists, written by Biswajit Roy, during a bail hearing in the Koregaon Bhima case on Wednesday.
The judge’s remarks on why Vernon Gonsalves, an activist arrested in the case for alleged Naxal links, had the book at home sparked reactions on social media, with #WarAndPeace trending on Twitter all of Thursday.
While people defended the right to read and keep any kind of book at home, author Biswajit Roy told Outlook it was hilarious and humbling to find himself in Tolstoy’s company as a result of the controversy.
Justice Sarang Kotwal’s clarification came after Gonsalves’ counsel told the court on Thursday that none of the books seized by the Pune police from his residence were banned by the government. A counsel of co-accused Sudha Bharadwaj told the court that the book referred to was a collection of essays edited by Roy.
Kotwal said he knew Tolstoy’s book was a literary classic. “I was reading the whole list from the panchnama attached to the charge sheet. Basically the handwriting was so poor it was hardly legible. There were so many references to war.... I know War and Peace. And there I was making a query (on why Gonsalves had copies of these books) but did not want to suggest that everything (seized) was incriminating,” Kotwal said, according to PTI.
The clarification has not stopped debates on the issue. While some people argued that the judge’s comments were unwarranted, irrespective of which book he was talking about, another section of people called the media out for misreporting the judge’s comments.
The judge’s explanation also raised further questions because during Wednesday’s hearing, the court had asked Gonsalves, “War and Peace is about war in another country. Why were you keeping these books at your house?”
But Roy’s collection of essays looks at failed peace initiatives in dealing with the Maoist movement in Bengal’s Jangalmahal.
One doesn’t think Justice Kotwal will offer any more clarifications.
Meanwhile, the book’s publisher told Times of India he’s been receiving several calls for copies of the book, which went out of print in 2012, and regrets not having it reprinted.
Roy told The Outlook that he had faith in the judiciary and that, in the book, he had tried to focus on issues into which both the public and policymakers should look into.