With former Attorney General Soli J. Sorabjee averring that “adherence to the strict path of history is not by itself a complete defence” to a charge under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, Orient Blackswan (OBS) has informed Megha Kumar, the author of Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad since 1969, that some paragraphs of her book may have to be revised.
The book was withheld after being put on sale on the possibility of it falling foul of the law after the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS) filed a complaint against a decade-old textbook published by OBS. The publishers had announced the book on their website under the segment “New Books and Events” in March along with several other books, which continue to be available. Sekhar Bandyopadhyay’s From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India , which had drawn SBAS convenor Dina Nath Batra’s ire, is also available on the website.
In fact, the opening page of the OBS website features the textbook and the publishing house told The Hindu that it has not agreed to make any changes. “We will not withdraw Plassey to Partition . It remains for sale via our website and through leading bookshops.”
Ms. Kumar’s book, according to OBS, was among several books, including some published works, put under the scanner in view of the SBAS’s complaint. Her book was referred to Mr. Sorabjee who is quoted by OBS as stating that “in view of the tone, tenor and provocative language in many parts of the book, Section 153-A of the IPC may well be attracted.” Mr. Sorabjee cited the case of Babu Rao Patel vs The State, 1986, in which the Supreme Court ruled, “The promotion of feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between Hindu and Muslim communities cannot be justified on the ground of political thesis or historical truths.”
Ms. Kumar, a Rhodes scholar from Oxford University, described Mr. Sorabjee’s opinion as “highly partial, selectively citing precedents in Indian jurisprudence that support the publisher’s position, and failing to cite other judgments which contradict it.”
Waltraud Ernst, one of the four editors of the series ‘Critical Thinking in South Asian History’, under which Ms. Kumar’s book was published, has written to OBS expressing concern that Mr. Sorabjee chose to refer to the 1969 case instead of the more recent 2010 Supreme Court judgment in the case pertaining to James Laine’s book on Shivaji.
In this judgment, the apex court had noted that “the effect of the words used in the offending material must be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong-minded, firm and courageous men, and not those of weak and vacillating minds, nor of those who scent danger in every hostile point of view.”