Who could be better qualified to write on publishing and issues like freedom of expression versus fundamentalist threats to authors and publishers, than the “grand old man of Indian publishing” himself? Not surprisingly, the launch of Dina N. Malhotra's book, “Freedom to Publish”, drew a significant gathering that included educationists, authors, publishers and others in public life at the India International Centre the other day. The launch by Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal was followed by a panel discussion between the minister, the author and noted educationist Arun Kapur. Sibal pointed out that the right to expression is a fundamental right, yet it becomes the subject of controversy with different sections of the society expressing diverse views. Sibal also stated that freedom of speech and expression is much more complex today, with increased globalisation and the information deluge from television and the Internet.

The author spoke about the book, which deals with censorship by the State and fundamentalists, and the life story of Martyr Rajpal, a publisher who lost his life fighting for the freedom of expression, 80 years ago in Lahore. The book carries forward the debate for freedom of expression and freedom to publish and brings out the similarities in Rajpal's predicament and that of many authors and writers in modern times, like Salman Rushdie, to name just one, who have drawn the wrath of fundamentalists.

Malhotra, who started his career as a lecturer in Political Science in Srinagar, is credited with pioneering the publication of good literature at affordable prices with Hind Pocket Books. “Freedom to Publish” is brought out by Clarion Books, a division of Hind Pocket Books.

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