In a shocking affront to freedom of expression, the Government of Punjab, India, has banned four rationalist books and threatened legal action against the authors and translators, Tarksheel Society of Punjab reports. The supposed grounds for the ban is that the books are “incorrect literature” about Hindu deities.
There is something, we want to bring to your attention.
In whichever states in India, Bhartiya Janta Party (backed by Right-wing Hindu fundamentalist organisations – Vishva Hindu Parishad and Rashitriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) or their allies are in power, there has been a common practise of attempting to crush the voices of dissent and rational thought, of banning the literature, documentary films, silencing the writers and journalists through state machinery.
Punjab, a north Indian state, is the most recent example of this undemocratic, fascist and dictatorial act. And Megh Raj Mitter, founder of Tarksheel (Rationalist) Society and a prominent Punjabi writer (honoured with the title of Shiromani Lekhak, Punjab state’s highest award for writers) is the latest to bear the brunt.
On Thursday afternoon, Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal (leader of Shiromani Akali Dal, a party supported by the BJP), imposed an “immediate ban” on four books, including Sri Lankan Dr Abraham T. Kovoor’s renowned ‘God, Demons and Spirits’, translated into Punjabi by Megh Raj Mitter and his associates in 1985. And Punjab Government is said to be gearing up to take the legal course of action (like arresting the authors, confiscating the copies of books and banning the publication) as well.
Unfortunately, the Punjab government has forgotten the vital role these books have played in the development of rational temperament among the masses of Punjab. Ironically, about two decades back, with a written letter the state government had recommended these books for the libraries of the government run schools for the scientific knowledge they imparted. Also, when Mitter was awarded the Shiromani Lekhak Award by the Language Department of Punjab government in 2001, the citation of the award ceremony prominently hailed these very books.
Today, fundamentalist forces, partonised the by the government, are threatening to attack Megh Raj Mitter and other rationalist activists. A few rationalist activists were even attacked in the last few days.
Thus, through this letter we appeal all the humanist, democratic, rationalist and secular people to come forward to defend the right of freedom of speech and expression.
It is not just a question of a few individuals or organisations, but also a matter of protecting the shrinking democratic space in the India.
We appeal you to condemn this heinous act at every possible level. Kindly forward this letter to as many people as you can, write an appeal to President, Prime Minister of India, CM Punjab and Governor of Punjab.
For any queries you can contact on our Web site : www.tarksheel.com
Send an e-mail to the President of India at: [email protected].in
The Prime Minister of India: [email protected]
The Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh: [email protected]
The Chief Minister of Punjab: [email protected]
The Governor of Punjab: [email protected]
See also: MSN: http://news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=1300279