Thursday, March 10, 2011

PEN reacts against banning of book in leading Indian University

PEN reacts against banning of book in leading Indian University

Please find attached a letter written by John Ralston Saul to Rejan Welukar, the Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University.

The letter is in respect to the abrupt removal, in September 2010, of Rohinton Mistry's novel Such a Long Journey from Mumbai University's reading list. The context of this decision is an important challenge to freedom of expression. A political party bullied one of India's most important universities into removing a book. They also threatened peoples' lives and staged a book burning. In spite of a strong campaign by professors at the university and writers all over India, the university remains unwilling to stand up to these political pressures.


Tuesday, 08 March 2011
Rajan Welukar
Vice Chancellor
University of Mumbai
M.G.Road, Fort,
Mumbai-400 032

Dear Vice-Chancellor Welukar,
I have been following closely the events regarding the abrupt removal in September, 2010, of
Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey from Mumbai University’s reading list. It has become
clear that this was provoked by political pressure. What’s more, the campaigning for its removal included a book burning.

I have held back from writing to you in the expectation that your university would take a strong
and clear stand on this issue, as it can only be seen as one of free expression and respect for
literature. Large parts of India’s remarkable literary community have spoken up. The University of Mumbai Academic Staff Association has taken a stand. The PEN All-India Centre has voiced its great concern.

The situation is perfectly straightforward. No novel is meant to please all readers. There is no
such thing as a good novel that does not contain political and social points of view. As for book
burnings, they are an eternal symbol of intolerance that strike at the heart of culture and
therefore at the core of any university’s duty to society.

Yours is a university with a strong intellectual tradition in a country that has long stood for free
expression. Frankly, these events have cast a shadow over Mumbai University’s international
reputation. I encourage you, as the effective leader of the university, to do everything you can to ensure that this shadow is removed.

Yours faithfully,
John Ralston Saul
International President

Source : PEN

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