The Bombay High Court, hearing a bail plea for activist Vernon Gonsalves who was arrested for his alleged links to Maoists, has found that the documents seized by the police includes an incriminating piece of literature about a war. The name of the book, according to multiple reports, is War and Peace, a book usually associated with a suspicious-sounding Russian author named Leo Tolstoy.
Had the book been called “Peace and Peace”, all might have gone well with Gonsalves, However, now his case is sure to cause some tension to an endangered species in India called “readers”. Members of this vanishing tribe are known to keep books about all kinds of wars in their homes. Several among them are known to possess copies of a text called The Art of War by a Chinese writer named Sun Tzu. This would no doubt constitute clear evidence of Maoist links. After all, what else could ownership of a book on war by a Chinese author signify?
Books are not the only danger to the national security of our great nation. It must be remembered that films are also a threat. There are films about wars in other countries and even other worlds. One called Star Wars is especially suspicious because it glorifies anti-government activity and the use of funny swords. Why would you watch a film about a war in another galaxy, unless you are an alien Maoist?
Apart from books and films, there’s the media, which is a known threat to national security, because it has not yet been completely trained to only report good news about the greatness and glory of our great nation and its great leader. Sometimes, albeit rarely, it slips up and reports news about wars in other countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. Why would the news media report news about wars in other countries? And why would you keep a newspaper with news about war in another country in your home?
Social media is a whole national security threat in itself, because it can bring news about wars from anywhere on the world into people’s homes. So are mobile phones, the internet in general, and all means of communication. Blocking mobile telephony and the internet is of course a simple path to world peace, as has been demonstrated in Jammu and Kashmir, where all is well as far as we know from reliable sources such as Republic TV; rumours to the contrary by fake news media such as the BBC cannot be trusted. Similarly, all would be well with the rest of the world as well, if only the internet, the telephone, the postal service, pens, writing paper and pigeon mail were banned, and journalism was replaced by stenography in case of print media and Times Now in case of broadcast.
Books with unsavoury words in their titles must not be permitted in the country, lest they ruin our impressionable youths who, for all we know, spend all their leisure reading. Why would anyone in the world want to read a book called Crime and Punishment, which is not a law handbook? The author should have been sued under Section 420.
We must not be solely negative. Merely banning things will not do. Positive thinking is required, and for this purpose, we must provide a positive list of what books and films are allowed, rather than only providing a list of what are banned. Anything not allowed could, for sake of simplicity, be considered banned. There would be no need for any new literature since all the books that need to be read have already been written. Thus, for example, the Mahabharata, which is about war and peace in our own country in ancient times, would be allowed. The Vedas and the Manu Smriti would be made compulsory. Among films, Border would be in the positives list. Lest it be thought that we are xenophobic, let us clarify that we have nothing against foreign literature. For instance, the book Mein Kampf by celebrated German author Adolf Hitler is sold freely in India, and is available everywhere. Hitler was not an Urban Naxal and hence remains popular.
We have no problem with literature. The real problem is with the unfettered imagination. Freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed in the Constitution. Where is it written that you have freedom of thought? In the country of our dreams, there would be only one dream, of a great Rashtra with one religion, one language, one party, one leader, one pure veg cuisine, and one supreme beverage — cow urine. Join our dream. It’s an offer you cannot refuse.
Samrat is an author, journalist and former newspaper editor. He tweets as @mrsamratx
Note: This article has been updated to reflect the Bombay HC's clarification that the book being referred to was Biswajit Roy's War and Peace in Junglemahal
Updated Date: Aug 30, 2019 15:34:04 IST