K.S. Bhagavan’s book on Ram temple withdrawn from library purchase list

Following a social media campaign by Hindutva right wing, the Public Library Book Selection Committee has withdrawn its recommendation to purchase writer K.S. Bhagavan’s 2018 book Rama Mandira Eke Beda? (Why should there be no Rama Mandira?).

The committee, led by Kannada writer Doddarange Gowda, issued a statement to this effect on Tuesday evening. This came close on the heels of Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar directing the committee to review the list. “The government will not buy any book that hurts the sentiments of sections of society,” Mr. Kumar said in a Facebook post on Monday night.

The controversy comes amidst a Vishwa Hindu Parishad fund-raising drive, for the Ram temple, in the State from January 15 to February 5.

Rama Mandira Eke Beda? is a collection of critical essays of the epic Ramayana and the politics around Ram temple. “People from VHP had come to my house seeking donations for the temple in Ayodhya. I made the same argument as in my book and asked them to read it,” Prof. Bhagavan told The Hindu.

Opposing the dropping of his book from the library purchase list, Prof. Bhagavan said public libraries cannot be held hostage to one ideology that is in power. “A public library needs to give readers all arguments allowing them to make an informed opinion of their own. If the RSS and BJP don’t agree with my argument, they can counter it with another book, not censor my book. The book has already seen three editions in two years and is going for a fourth edition and has not created any trouble. I have no intention to hurt any religious sentiments. I have only argued my case within the precincts of Valmiki Ramayana,” he argued.

Dr. Gowda, also associated with the BJP, said the committee had initially excluded the book from the selection list on the grounds that “it hurt religious sentiments of a large section of society”. But, deciding on a review petition by the publisher, the committee decided to recommend it for purchase. “We thought the book could be part of our public libraries as one of the arguments on the matter, providing readers various points of views, though we may not agree with it,” he said. However, “with public objection” to this decision, it has decided to withdraw the recommendation, the statement said.

“More than the argument, it’s the way Prof. Bhagavan makes that argument that seems to incite extreme reactions. The Kannada world has accepted harsher criticism than his on our epics,” he noted.

Basu Sulibhavi, publisher of the book, said they had not applied for a review petition for the book at all. “We did not file for a review of the committee’s decision and did not know the book was eventually selected,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 11:04:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/ks-bhagavans-book-on-ram-temple-withdrawn-from-library-purchase-list/article33612393.ece

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