interview | S.K. MURUGAN Tamil Nadu

We are here to promote reading, not controversy: BAPASI secretary

he Book Sellers’ and Publishers’ Association of South India (BAPASI) secretary S.K. Murugan

he Book Sellers’ and Publishers’ Association of South India (BAPASI) secretary S.K. Murugan   | Photo Credit: M. Karunakaran

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‘Anbazhagan was abusive when we asked him to vacate’

The ongoing 43rd Chennai Book Fair was mired in controversy on Sunday following the eviction of a self-published author from a stall for displaying a book highlighting allege corruption in the Chennai Corporation’s Smart City project. In an interview, The Book Sellers’ and Publishers’ Association of South India (BAPASI) secretary S.K. Murugan defended the decision, claiming the organisation has never allowed anti-government books to be sold at the fair. Excerpts:

On what basis did BAPASI issue an eviction order to the tenant of a stall for displaying books critical of the state government?

Ever since Bapasi’s Chennai Book Fair started we have never allowed controversial books [to be sold]. Besides, publications are allowed to have a stall only if they follow the 25 rules framed by our association. Though the tenant [V Anbazhagan] agreed to this earlier, he displayed some controversial books. Hence we issued the eviction notice.

Why are you against the sale of books critical of the government?

We have this rule for the past 42 years. We are here to promote reading and we do not want any controversial or banned book to be displayed. Such books they can purchase outside too.

Your rule says banned and pirated books can’t be sold. But the books displayed at the stall have not been banned...

As I said earlier, we do not want any controversial books. Eight years ago, there was a book against the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. This was brought to our notice and we asked the publication to remove the book from the stall and he obliged. But Anbazhagan created a scene when he asked him to remove the books.

Why did you lodge a police complaint against him?

He was very abusive when we asked him to vacate and also when we turned down his repeated requests to have a book launch. The book fair is already crowded and the gap between two stalls is 15 feet. Hence it is impossible to have a book launch inside. The stage outside is used for launching the books of our members. Sometimes, we cannot accommodate their book launches too due to lack of slots.

Is it possible for BAPASI to ensure that no ‘anti-government’ book is sold at the fair when thousands of titles are available?

It is not possible considering the number of books. When the publisher enters into an agreement with us to set up a stall, it means he agrees to all the rules. We trust that he won’t have any controversial or banned books. If such books are displayed, the government agencies, readers or sometimes even police alert us and we ask them to remove them.

Doesn’t such censorship go against the freedom of speech and expression?

As long as we are in BAPASI, we are bound by its rules. We are not against them selling the books outside, but we prevent them from selling it in our fair.

Usually publishers object to governments banning books, but isn’t BAPASI resorting to censorship internally?

That is because Bapasi has a set of rules.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 11:32:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/we-are-here-to-promote-reading-not-controversy-bapasi-secretary/article30552912.ece

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