Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gandhi Biography Controversy

Speaking of Gandhi, I mentioned a new biography about the Mahatma earlier in class this week. The book, which has not yet been released, is already the focal point of a fair amount of controversy. Critics claim that the author, Lelyveld, suggests that Gandhi was a bisexual individual. As a result of this charge, multiple Indian states are planning to ban the book, despite potentially violating the author's right to publish.

I heard the story on NPR. You can find the audio file and the printed transcript of the feature by clicking here.

I think that these events take place at a convenient time for our class. One is able to observe quite directly the supreme reverence India's people have for its former visionary. In fact, multiple Indian politicians and states are prepared to violate the democratic right to freedom of the press in order to defend the symbol of the new, powerful country. Such a ban reminds me of Islam's declared fatwa against Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. At the same time, however, very many Indians are making a valiant effort to fight for the other side on the issue by defending the press, thus demonstrating the wealth of societies and cultural values dispersed across the wide region of the globe. India's diversity is exceedingly clear. Can anybody else integrate this news story into the broader framework of Rushdie's novel?

Incidentally, the newly unified India clearly retained many of its earlier colonial states!


Samantha said...

I agree that the potential ban of this new Gandhi biography is very similar to the fatwa declared against Rushdie for "Satanic Verses." Although banning a book is less severe of a statement than a fatwa, it still proves that history often repeats itself. Just as Rushdie's freedom of speech was violated, this author's freedom of speech and press, likewise, stands the chance to be violated. Since we're on the subject of Gandhi's biography, I wanted to comment upon what we learned yesterday about the Mahatma. Although we had briefly studied Gandhi in Middle School, I was unaware of his family's position in the upper caste. Further, while I considered Gandhi the father of non-violent protest, I did not realize that he attended law school and was a journalist.

Katherine said...

Samantha, I also think it is extremely interesting Gandhi was a journalist. I think his mission to serve by writing the truth is very relative to this controversy in regards to Gandhi's sexuality. If the author of Gandhi's new biography is telling the truth and serving the people with true knowledge, then he is technically continuing Gandhi's message. I am not saying that I agree or disagree with the controversy but if we are discussing Gandhi's goal then technically this is within his ideals.

Julia said...

I actually read a biography of Gandhi this summer, and his life continues to fascinate me. I saw the movie as well, and one of my favorite scenes is one in which Gandhi led the Dandi Salt March in 1930. Protesting the British-imposed salt tax, Gandhi gathered his followers together to march to the sea to make salt themselves. Gandhi's peaceful resistance to promote change inspires me, and I am actually going to use these words spoken by Gandhi for my yearbook quote: "Be the change you want to see in the world."