Church leaders in Gujarat have termed the intention to ban a book on Mahatma Gandhi as “gagging” the freedom of expression. Condemning the proposed ban by the Gujarat government on Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India by Pulitzer prize winner Joseph Lelyveld in advance of publication, they said the action amounted to gagging the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the constitution. The book was to be banned in the western Indian state for reportedly denigrating Gandhi, held in high esteem by Indians for his role in the freedom struggle. Chief minister Narendra Modi had told the state assembly on March 30 that the writer had portrayed the 'father of the nation' in a very “perverted and despicable'' manner and “it cannot be tolerated’’. Jesuit activist Father Cedric Prakash, who directs the Prashant (tranquility) NGO, said that instead of arbitrarily going for a ban, the authorities should have made an “objective assessment” and challenged the contents of the book with which they did not agree upon. Father Verghese Paul, director of the Catholic Information Service Society, said that even Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi did not want a ban on the book. The Modi government appears to be “prejudiced” as it has not explained why the book is being banned, he added. Father Lancy Lobo, who heads the Centre for Culture and Development at Vadodara, commented that the government appears to be over-enthusiastic in banning the book, which it has “not even read,” As for Gandhi’s status, he said: “we all love our icons personally but Gandhi seems to have been raised to the status of divinity which is not proper’’. The priest said the author had himself denied having made any racist remark against Gandhi in the book. “But the media seems to have misrepresented facts in its reports about the book’’, concluded Father Lobo. ID13830.1647
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