If I had not read Pranay Gupte in the April 2 issue of The Hindu (“Joe Lelyvelds of this world don't lie”), I would not have realised that Joseph Lelyveld or ‘Joe' was untruth's implacable foe, honesty's friend and accuracy's exemplar. Mr. Gupte could perhaps have added that Mr. Lelyveld has brought to action another rare skill — denigration by insinuation and innuendo.
The new book is not the first nor the last one designed to show Gandhiji in unfavourable light. But it is a first in one sense. It has shown how the poison of the planted thought can be stronger than the swipe of the plain word. The book should not be banned. It does not deserve that extreme and illiberal reaction. But if read at all, it should be read in the knowledge that if literary intolerance is wrong, so is the exploitation of readers' liberal instincts.
The Hindu deserves praise for carrying the timely editorial “Don't ban Great Soul” (April 1) and the article by Mr. Gupte, exposing the utter folly of banning the book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India by Mr. Lelyveld.
It is heartening to note that the Centre has abandoned the idea of banning the book.
What Mahatma Gandhi stood for and did for this nation cannot be, and should not be, sullied by the intolerance of some politicians. The nation will stand to benefit more if our leaders follow the Gandhian values of tolerance, fairness and justice rather than bicker over a few passages in a book.
The editorial and Pranay Gupte's description of Joseph Lelyveld as a person and author of veracity and intellectual integrity make it clear that a ban on the book is needless. It is difficult to imagine that the author had some sinister motive in writing a book on Mahatma Gandhi. It is best to let readers come to their own conclusions about the author's purpose and motivation.
Mahatma Gandhi, in the introduction to The Story of my Experiments with Truth writes, “Let hundreds like me perish, but let truth prevail. Let us not reduce the standards of truth even by a hair's breadth for judging erring mortals like myself.” This was the measure he set for himself. In this light, banning the book is absurd.
The relationship between Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach — references to which have resulted in calls for banning Mr. Lelyveld's book — was anything but sexual. In his autobiography, Gandhiji called him “a soul-mate.”
Kallenbach's association with Gandhiji made him donate liberally — he donated 1,100 acres of land to Tolstoy Farm.
M. Somasekhar Prasad,
References to Gandhiji's alleged personal life will not tarnish his image, popularity and greatness. Banning the book without retrospection — without even reading it — will prove counter-productive, boosting the popularity and sales of the book.
Authors who have thoroughly researched their work deserve the benefit of doubt before their books are banned.
Moreover, the government is stepping on the fundamental rights of people by imposing such restrictions.
Not long ago, it was Jad Adams' book Gandhi: Naked Ambition that raised eyebrows. Now it is the turn of Joe Lelyvelds. What has been written in the two books may be true or untrue. Such triviality should not be taken note of.