India: The Rushdie effect–bans, burnings and other acts of censorship since 1988

(Thought I’d put this together for the record; this is incomplete and lacks several citations, for the Saleem Kidwai case, attacks on art galleries and any other book bans that have escaped my notice. I’d welcome additions and corrections. Thanks.)

Sept. 26, 1988: Viking Penguin publishes Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in London.

Oct. 5, 1988: India bans The Satanic Verses.

Feb. 24, 1989 : At least 12 people are killed and 40 wounded when police fire at Muslims rioting in Mumbai against the novel.

July 1993: The Government of Bangladesh bans Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja. (Bangladesh will subsequently continue to ban books by Nasreen, most notably her autobiography.)

1997: BBC refused permission to film Midnight’s Children in India after state government of Maharashtra expresses reservations.

November 1997: The government of Sri Lanka withdraws filming permission for Midnight’s Children from the BBC.

1998: Filmmaker Deepa Mehta receives a death threat after the first screening of Fire. In late 1998, Shiv Sena mobs storm cinema halls in a successful attempt to stop screenings of Fire. Indian film censors withdraw the film from theatres for a second review. After five weeks, the film returns to theatres.

April 26, 1998: Shiv Sena members disrupt and halt a concert by Ustad Ghulam Ali. “We shall not allow any Pakistani singer to perform in India, because no Indian singer was welcomed in that country,” says an unnamed Sainik.

May 3, 1998: Shiv Sena members storm the house of artist M F Husain in protest against his painting, Sita Rescued, damaging paintings and property. Thackeray says, “If Husain can conduct himself as he pleases with regard to our gods and goddesses, we won’t be averse to entering his house.”

1999: Pradeep Dalvi’s play, Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy, is banned in the state of Maharashtra. The play is written from the perspective of Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse.

Feb. 4, 1999: India grants Rushdie a visa to return to his native land.

January 2000: A 2,000-strong mob burns down the set in Varanasi where Deepa Mehta’s Water is being filmed; it touches on the lives of widows in Varanasi. The Hindutva parties feel that it “shows Hindu culture in a bad light” to depict widows in the manner that Mehta has.

February 2000: The UP government orders filming on Water to cease, saying that it has “provoked civil disorder”.

2001: The BJP and the VHP urge their members to burn copies of historian D N Jha’s The Myth of the Holy Cow, just before the publication of the book. It is banned by the Hyderabad court on the grounds that “it might hurt religious sentiments”.

2002: Film-maker Anand Patwardhan is asked to make 21 cuts in his anti-nuclear film, War and Peace. Patwardhan protests and the courts decree the cuts unconstitutional.

2003: The Indian Censor Board bans Sridhar Rangayan’s Gulabi Aina, a film on Indian transsexuals, saying that it is “vulgar and offensive”. Rangayan’s film is yet to be officially screened in India, but has won several awards worldwide.

June, 2003: James Laine’s Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India published in India by Oxford University Press India.

21 November 2003: Oxford University Press India apologised and withdrew the book from the Indian market. (The book continued to be listed in the OUP India catalogue until mid-January, but has since been removed. The book remains in print and available outside India.)

November 2003: The West Bengal government bans Taslima Nasrin’s Dwaikhandito on the grounds that its contents could inflame religious passions.

2004: Rakesh Sharma’s film Final Solution addresses the 2002 riots in Gujarat and is banned by the film censor board for being “highly provocative”. The ban is finally lifted in October 2004.

5 January, 2004: Over 150 activists from the Sambhaji Brigade attacked BORI, ransacking the building, defacing books and artworks, and destroying property.

14 January: Despite the fact that OUP had already withdrawn Laine’s book from the Indian market two months earlier, the Maharashtra government moved — eventually successfully — to have Laine’s book banned, again citing Sections 153 and 153A of the Indian Penal Code.
153. Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot (…)
153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony

16 January: Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee speaks out against the book-ban on Shivaji.

March 2004: Gopinath Munde admits that he was wrong to have asked for a ban on Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India, on the grounds that it contained passages derogatory to Shivaji. “I ama politician and not a scholar like Y D Phadke (who was the first to point out that the book said nothing against Shivaji). But there is no change in my party’s stand—it will not tolerate any insult to national heroes like Shivaji.”

September 2005: West Bengal High Court overturns the ban against Taslima Nasrin’s Dwaikhandito.

March 2006: Advocate Arvind Shrivastava files a case against Husain for allegedly depicting Hindu goddesses in an obscene manner in the Haridwar district court.

February 2008: The UP government bans Jaishree Misra’s Rani, a work of historical fiction, on the grounds that it contains “highly objectionable” material about Rani Lakshmibai’s personal life–ie, a reference to a (fictionalised) chaste romance between Lakshmibai and a British officer.

March 29, 2009: M F Husain pulls his film Meenaxi–A Tale of Three Cities from cinema halls after protests from Muslim organisations of his word ‘Noor’ in a qawwali. The All India Ulema Council says it is blasphemous to use “noor”, since the word should be employed strictly to describe the divine love of the Prophet. Husain says that to him, “noor” is the light of the Lord that stays with us in the hours of darkness, but withdraws the film.

May 6, 2009: On the orders of a court in Haridwar, Mumbai police begin attaching Husain’s property in Bombay, in connection with the March 2006 case against Husain alleging that his paintings of Hindu icons are obscene.

May 2008: The Delhi High Court today dismisses criminal proceedings against M F Husain for allegedly hurting public sentiments by painting obscene pictures of Hindu goddesses. “The matter (allegation) is baseless,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said, while granting relief to the 91-year-old painter.

July 8, 2009: The Chattisgarh state government bans the late Habib Tanvir’s play, Charandas Chor, written in Chattisgarhi with a 20-year record of performances in the state, on the grounds that it shows the followers of the Satnami Panth community in a bad light.

August 20, 2009: The Narendra Modi government in Gujarat bans Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah-India, Partition, Independence, on the grounds that it tarnishes the image of Sardar Patel.

September 4, 2009: The Gujarat High Court overturns the ban on Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah, saying that the State needs to have more respect for the fundamental rights of citizens.






12 responses to “India: The Rushdie effect–bans, burnings and other acts of censorship since 1988”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    You missed Anurag Kashyap's 'Paanch' and 'Black Friday'…

  2. Jagadish Avatar

    Not necessarily in the same league or related: 1. Would the announcement of a bounty for the head of the Danish cartoonist who drew up those caricatures of Prophet Mod. count?2. More localized – Karnataka imposed a ban on release of Tamil movies for a period of 2 months after they were released in TN (this was around 2003-2004)3. The Da Vinci Code movie was banned for a while, the SC then stepped in and banned the ban4. Rang De Basanti went through umpteen number of screenings with politicians, ministers, army folks, etc. and I guess was quite close to not make it to the cinema halls5. Aandhi didn't make it to the screens until 2 years after it was made, and only after Indira Gandhi was kicked out of power.I wrote a similar post a few months ago –

  3. Progga Avatar

    Not a ban, but vigilante justice aided and abetted by the police:

  4. Tusar N Mohapatra Avatar

    Indian reprint of "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" by Peter Heehs published by Columbia University Press has been prevented by instituting court cases against the author in Orissa in 2008. [TNM]

  5. thecommutist Avatar

    And we live in a democracy!

  6. Kaporegime Avatar

    India is still the largest Democracy huh…What an irony…

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    The da vinci code was banned in some parts of south india as it was sensitive to christians…

  8. Ankur Avatar

    Good compilation! Really a shame.

  9. Nilanjana <a href="">@twitter</a> Avatar

    Thank you! I'll be updating this over the weekend–many thanks for the references.

  10. Eagleeye47 Avatar

    Think Bans have in most cases proved to be counter productive. In some they have proved beneficial to the ones banned…High time we did do away with 'Bans'.

  11. Aruni Kashyap Avatar

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Aruni Kashyap Avatar

    Also, ULFA banned Hindi movies in Assam in 2002.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: