Want to write a book, Contact the Government first


Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid … Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

Bertrand Russell, Why Men Fight


Writers, first confirm you are pro establishment and not working against the nation..

Any layperson could see that essentially that was the meaning of a form sent by NCPUL or National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, to established as well as prospective Urdu writers few years back.

All those writers who wanted to get some support from the Council, which functions under Human Resources Ministry of the Central government, were asked to send  this declaration that their book under consideration was ‘not against the government or nation’, and they were also asked to provide signatures of two witnesses (https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/urdu-writers-asked-to-declare-my-book-not-against-the-govt-nation/).

Perhaps it was the first time in the history of Independent India that such a demand was placed rather too crudely before the writers. Looking at the fact that since a majority of writers in Urdu belong to the biggest religious minority in the country, it was also construed as an indirect attempt to stigmatise them further.

This diktat by the Council did raise lot of uproar but matter died down soon.

0 0

Much time has passed since this communication had reached headlines, since those early days of Prime Minister Modi’s ascent at the centre but the penchant to put writers, creative workers, intellectuals, artists under some sort of a leash has not at all diminished.

A recent order by the Manipur Government raises similar concerns. (https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/multiple-failures-blame-on-manipur-academia-for-not-honouring-gate-keeping-role/cid/1889561; https://thewire.in/rights/manipur-book-publishing-government-approval)

It makes it mandatory for every writer – keen to focus on Manipur – its history, geography, culture and tradition – to contact the government first, share the proposal and manuscript of the book before the panel of experts headed by the education minister to seek their approval.

This executive order also makes it absolutely clear that those who violate it ‘shall be liable to be punished under relevant law’

As expected this order which directly violates a citizen’s rights under Article 19, which protects freedom of speech and expression, has created enough consternation among writers, publishers as well as civil liberty activists etc. It is true that this right is not absolute and reasonable restrictions can be put on it under specific circumstances but such a blanket ban on publication before prior approval of a state government is definitely in contravention of the spirit of the article.

It is also against the spirit of research and enquiry which is key part of any knowledge production and ensures that viewpoints which differ from the official narrative or ‘mainstream narrative’ will not be entertained and will be silenced completely.

As reported in a section of the media, the immediate trigger for this strong action by the Manipur government was publication of a book penned down by a retired army personnel, titled ‘The Complexity Called Manipur: Roots, Perceptions & Reality ‘which was the PhD thesis of the late Brigadier, which according to the government had some ‘factual errors’ regarding genesis of Manipur state and had led to protests, demonstrations by indigenous people.

The best course open before the government in this particular case was to approach the courts, challenge the factual errors and in case of the concerned persons not able to provide proof of their claims, move accordingly. In worst cases the government always has an option of banning a book as well even confiscation of its available copies to stop spreading of ‘disaffection among people’ if the court is convinced of the matter.

What is rather disturbing that instead of taking any such steps gradually regarding this particular book, the hurried manner in which the government has moved indicates that the it wanted to use it as an excuse, a pretext to rein in critical or independent voices further.

We can recall the BJP government in the state – in its first term ( 2017 -2022) did not cover itself with glory when there were allegations that journalists or political activists were arrested under draconian laws like National Security Act on flimsy pretext. It was widely reported how they were arrested just for making a facebook comment that ‘cow dung and cow urine’ do not cure Covid’ (https://thewire.in/media/manipur-journalist-kishorechandra-wangkhem-jailed-nsa-cow-dung-covid-19-released) and the Supreme Court of the country had to intervene in the matter. And there is reason to believe that with a full majority in the state now on its own in its second term, perhaps the government wants to widen its ambit

It is also feared that if this plan to pre censor books is not challenged at the legal level as well as in the form of nonviolent mass resistance at a broader level, in the rest of the country as well, similar laws can be cloned elsewhere as well, where BJP led dispensation is in power. We have seen before our own eyes many such attempts by various BJP ruled states. The latest being the ‘Bulldozer Model’ of instant vigilante justice at the behest of the state, which has started from UP and has slowly imagination of few other BJP ruled states.

0 0

The plan to use a government panel headed by the education minister –  as a gate keeper for any intellectual discourse does sound authoritarian and a sign of regimentation of thought but it fits well with the way the present regime views and treats academics, critical intellectuals or writers and which has been under increasing criticism for strengthening voices of unreason and intolerance. Perhaps it was the first time in independent India’s 75 year history that more than fifty writers, cultural personalities from across the country returned the prestigious awards presented to them for their creative works by leading institutions to protest this ‘culture of intolerance’ (2015) which was spurred by the targeted assassination of legendary Kannada scholar Prof M M Kalburgi by a rightwing Hindutva group.

This attitude to denigrate independent scholars, intellectuals was very much evident even in its first Avatar at the centre under A B Vajpayee’s leadership.

It is now history how Prof Murli Manohar Joshi, the then minister for Human Resources Development had castigated the likes of Prof Romila Thapar and Prof Irfan Habib and other Left historians, as engaged indulging in “intellectual terrorism,” which according to him was “more dangerous than cross-border terrorism”.(https://www.cpim.org/content/surjeet-writes-vajpayee-protesting-against-hrd-ministers-outbursts)

Apart from engaging in dubious methods to stigmatise, marginalise critical intellectuals working here, even difficult to hold seminars within Universities – whose themes are not to the liking of the establishment – the ruling dispensation has even no qualms in even putting n number of obstacles in the way of entry of critical academics, intellectuals from abroad even for research work, seminars, conferences or for other interactions as well.

The first half of this year was marked by the unceremonious deportation of leading British anthropologist and sociologist Filippo Osella in March 2022 from Thiruvananthapuram, without giving any explanation – who had come on an official visa (https://www.firstpost.com/india/why-has-india-denied-entry-to-renowned-uk-anthropologist-filippo-osella-10488061.html) – and who has studied Kerala for the last three decades.

This incident which was widely reported in the international media was followed by British Architecture Professor Lindsay Bremner denied entry into India, despite having a valid visa. (https://thewire.in/rights/uk-architecture-professor-lindsay-bremner-denied-entry-into-india

Remember Prof Osella has recently filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging his deportation (https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/treated-like-terrorist-uk-academic-delhi-hc-deportation-kerala-8105491/) wherein he had even claimed that he was ‘treated like a terrorist’.

Whatever might be the claims of the cheerleaders of the government about increased approval rating of the PM in the country and the world, such incidents which betray its tremendous insecurities and anxieties provide fodder to the idea how slowly and not so silently the biggest democracy in the world is getting reduced to nothing but electoral autocracy.

Genuine seekers of democracy and secularism in this part of South Asia would be definitely concerned about this slide but all those forces and formations which want to usher India into a Hindu Rashtra would be rejoicing over these developments.

Subhash Gatade is a left  activist associated with New Socialist Initiative

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

The Mere Anarchy of Law

India that is more Bharat these days is a democracy,which proclaims to the whole world that unlike socialist dictatorships is ruled by law.It has become quite difficult to understand what…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News