India is known as the land of Yoga, Ayurveda, diverse cultures, languages, religion, food and it’s people for hospitality around the world. Unfortunately, one thing that India is also known for is ‘Censorship’. From movies, books, paintings, advertisements and to every art that dares to depict religious, social, or economic taboos, faces the wrath of heavy censorship in India.
A country which is well known around the world for its contribution through ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and Kama Sutra, banning the books of its own countrymen for voicing their opinions comes a big blow to the freedom of speech in India. Let us take a look at some of the most controversial books by Indian authors that are banned in India which question the existence of free speech in the country.
Here’s a list of 10 most controversial books by Indian authors that were banned in India
1. The Satanic Verses
Author – Salman Rushdie
Year published – 1988
Ban – Nationwide
Reason for ban – One of the most controversial books in recent literary history not just in India but among the whole Islamic world. The Satanic Verses caused a major outrage immediately after it was published in 1988, which led to the issuing of a fatwa by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khameini of Iran, ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. Numerous murder attempts were plotted to kill Rushdie which forced him to go into hiding for over a decade.
The book is inspired by the life of Prophet Muhammed and blends elements of magical realism with the verses in the Quoran. The book is considered as blasphemous and a mockery of the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad. The book cannot be imported into India and many other countries who have issued a fatwa. Reading or discussing the contents of the book is even considered as an act of crime across many Islamic countries even today.
Salman Rushdie still faces serious death threats, even after 30 years of its publishing and the book still remains one of the most debated books of 21st century.
2. Rangila Rasul
Author– Pandit M. A Chamupati or Krishan Prashad
Year published – 1927
Ban – Nationwide
Reason for ban – Rangeel Rasul or ‘The Colourful Prophet’ published in 1927 was the first book to be banned in British India. It was penned by Pandit M. A Chamupati an ‘Arya Samaji‘ in 1927. His name was never revealed at the time by the publisher of the book Mahashe Rajpal which lead to several trials against him by the Muslim community. After many unsuccessful murder attempts on his life, Rajpal was killed on 6th April 1929 by a young Muslim carpenter.
The book was a vengeful action against a pamphlet published by a Muslim which depicted the Hindu goddess Sita as a prostitute. Rangila Rasul depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and questioned the teachings of Islam.
The book which was originally written in Urdu and now translated into Hindi still remains banned in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
3. The Myth of the Holy Cow
Author – Dwijendra Narayan Jha
Year – 2002
Ban – Statewide ( Andhra Pradesh)
Reason for ban – ‘The Myth of the Holy Cow’ investigates the practice of beef-eating in India. The book uncovers the truth behind the idea of the cow being a holy animal in the Hindu culture. Jha cites many Hindu, Buddhist and Jain scriptures stating that the practice of beef-eating was never considered as a taboo throughout the history before. He further states that in fact, many communities around India used beef as an offering to the local deity.
The book apparently didn’t go down well with many conservative people and some right-wing groups and political parties. The book still stands banned by the Hyderabad civil court.
4. An Area of Darkness
Author – V. S Naipaul
Year published – 1964
Ban – Nationwide
Reason for ban – Written by V. S Naipaul a British writer of Indian descent, who was also a noble laureate in literature, the book is an account of Naipaul’s journey through his ancestral land of India in the early sixties. The book is the first part of Naipaul’s highly acclaimed Indian trilogy.
The book depicts an extremely pessimistic view of the Indian culture throughout the book. The book was immediately banned in India for a few years for its pessimistic depiction of India and its people. The ban was lifted later by the supreme court, the book is now available on e-commerce platforms.
5. Understanding Islam Through Hadis – Religious Faith or Fanaticism?
Author – Ram Swarup
Year published – 1982
Ban – Nationwide
Reason of ban – First published in the United States in 1982, the book tackles the issue of political Islam. The book is a rumination of the Sahih Muslim the second-most important collection of Hadiths.
The book is considered to offend the Muslim sentiments and the writer after a complaint was launched against him. The Hindi translation of the book was banned in 1990 followed by the English translation in 1991. The book still remains banned in India.
6. Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence
Author – Jaswant Singh
Year published – 2009
Ban – Statewide (Gujarat)
Reason for ban – The book is written by Jaswant Singh, a retired army officer, an ex-parliamentarian and an ex-prominent member of the right-wing party BJP. The book came as a big surprise for his party members and other colleagues. It sheds light on the role of Jinnah leading to the partition of India.
The book was quite well-researched account of the decisions taken by Jinnah and presents him in a very objective manner rather than venturing into popular beliefs held by the masses. It also criticizes Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the two most revered names in the history of Indian politics.
The book was banned by the Gujarat government and Singh was expelled from the party. The Gujarat government later overturned the decision by lifting the ban stating that it was unconstitutional to do so.
7. Madhorubhaganor (One Part Woman)
Author – Perumal Murugan
Year Published – 2010
Ban – Nationwide
Reason for ban – The novel is based on an ancient cultural practice amongst a small community of Tamil Hindus. It was criticised by Hindu groups that deemed the novel to incite communal tension and hurt religious sentiments of the people.
The book was also considered to depict women in a bad light. This all led to violent protests by the people, which forced Murugan to take down his unsold copies of the shelf to avoid harassment by the community. The ban was later lifted by the Madras High Court, which ruled in favour of Murugan rejecting all petitions to ban the book. The book is now available on several e-commerce platforms.
8. Such a long journey
Author – Rohintan Mistry
Year published – 1991
Ban – Mumbai University
Reason for ban – Rohinton Mistry’s highly acclaimed novel is set at the backdrop of political turmoil in the 1970s in India. The book narrates the story of a middle-class Parsi man who works as a clerk in a bank, struggling to make ends meet.
The book was banned from the syllabus of the Mumbai University after the allegations from Shiv Sena, the ruling regional party of Maharashtra. As per the family members of the ruling party, the book contained derogatory remarks about the party founder Balasaheb Thackeray and hurt the sentiments of the people of Maharashtra.
9. Islam: A Concept of Political World Invasion
Author – R.V Bhasin
Year Published – 2003
Ban – Statewide (Maharashtra)
Reason for ban – The book was banned under the instructions of then chief minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2007 on the grounds of sec .153 IPC after Jammat-I-Islami and other Muslim organizations filed a complaint against the copies of the books which were already in circulation.
The book was considered to paint an oppressive and violent picture of Islam. It deals with Prophet’s Mohammed’s personal life, the Koran, wars in Mecca and Medina. The book is believed to have hurt the sentiments of conservative thinkers and still remains banned till date.
Author – Mridula Garg
Year published – 1979
Ban – Nationwide
Reason for ban – Mridula Garg’s ‘Chittacobra’ first published in 1979 immediately became a topic of controversy for its liberal depiction of a women’s sexuality. The portrayal of a married Indian woman having an extramarital affair with a Scottish missionary priest did not go down well with the conservative thinkers.
A case was filed against the writer stating that the novel was obscene and tarnished the image of Indian women. Though the writer avoided jail time by legal means, she still faced criticism and harassment from many conservative groups. The case ran in the court for 2 years the ban was finally lifted in 1982. The book is now also translated into English and is available on e-commerce platforms.