Gandhi biography discussing his sexuality is banned in some Indian states
Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Lelyveld says reviews of "Great Soul," his book about Gandhi, are distorting the truth.
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In the Wall Street Journal, conservative historian Andrew Roberts writes, “‘Great Soul’ also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that [Gandhi] was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist – one who was often downright cruel to those around him.”Skip to next paragraph
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“I do not allege that Gandhi is racist or bisexual,” Mr. Lelyveld said in a statement. “The word 'bisexual' nowhere appears in the book.” He goes on to tell the Times of India, “The aim of 'Great Soul' is to sift the evidence and facts of Gandhi's life and discuss them in a careful, responsible and balanced way.”
In fact, Lelyveld isn’t the first to explore Gandhi’s sexuality. Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar researched Gandhi's sexuality in “Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality,” and later in “Mira and Mahatma.” Though he hasn’t yet read the book, Mr. Kakar told the Times of India that he “never discovered anything that the reviewers claim the book consists of.”
Regardless of the claims about Gandhi’s sexuality, the real loss if for Indians, many of whom, thanks to a few irresponsible reviews and headlines and their leaders’ overeager censoring, won’t be able to read a careful, nuanced portrait of their national hero and the father of their independence.
In spite of some potentially reckless reviews, many Indians are taking the higher road.
Ranjit Hoskote, a writer and general secretary of PEN India, which campaigns for freedom of expression, criticized the ban and said the media had misconstrued both Lelyveld's intentions and the nature of Gandhi's relationship with Kallenbach.
“You can't cite a worse example of third hand reportage and comment,” he told the Associated Press. “How can you ban a book you haven't read?”
Even Gandhi's grandson, Rajmohan, weighed in. He dismissed the implications about Gandhi's sexual life and rejected calls for a ban, calling it “wrong from every point of view, and doubly so in the light of Gandhi's commitment to freedom of speech.”
“We need not mind the Lelyveld book,” he wrote in the Hindustan Times.
A response Gandhi would be proud of.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.