Bowing to pressure from fringe Tamil nationalist groups, the Booksellers' and Publishers' Association of South India (BAPASI) on Sunday wanted Malayala Manorama to close down its stall at the Chennai Book Fair, but some publishers intervened and ensured that the Malayalam newspaper continued to participate in it.

Activists of the May 17 Movement, which derived its name from the last day of the LTTE in the Mullivaaikal combat in May 2009, entered the book fair and held a demonstration demanding the closure of the Malayala Manorama stall. They made it clear to the office-bearers of the BAPASI that the Malayalam newspaper had no business to be a part of the book fair after Kerala declined to raise the water level of the Mullaperiyar dam.

The BAPASI discussed the issue with officials in-charge of Malayala Manorama in Chennai, suggesting that the stall be closed in the interest of other book publishers.

“They wanted us to vacate the premises. But, we sought time to discuss it with our higher-ups in Kerala. Subsequently, BAPASI told us that there was no need to close down our stall,” an officer of Malayala Manorama said.

BAPASI president R.S. Shanmugam said that he had asked the Malayalam newspaper to display its sister publication, The Week, at the book fair instead of its own name on the board. “We told the protesters that they have the right to protest. If they had informed us, we would have arranged a place for them to hold the demonstration. But, they came inside as visitors and raised slogans when there was a heavy crowd.”

Writer and editor of Gnanabanu publications Gnani, who objected to the BAPASI asking the Malayalam newspaper to vacate the premises, said it was totally unacceptable to ask a publication to close its stall because someone did not like it.

“Instead the BAPASI should have asked for protection,” remarked Gnani, saying that he too had no problem with the protesters raising their voice in a democratic manner.

Echoing the view, Kalachuvadu publisher Kannan said that the BAPASI should keep in mind that Tamil publishers participated in book fairs in Bangalore and Kerala every year.

Bharathi Puthakalayam and Kizhakku Pathipagam also expressed its solidarity with Malayalam Manorama.