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Maharashtra Bans Book on Shivaji


The Times of India, Mumbai, Jan. 15, 2004

Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, James Laine's controversial book on Shivaji which sparked off the attack on the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute last week, has been banned by the Maharashtra government. Home minister R.R. Patil, confirming the news to T.N.N., said that all copies of the book would be seized under the criminal procedure code. 'My department has sent a proposal to the general administration department and we are expecting a reply by tomorrow,' he said. A day earlier, the government had already registered an offence against Laine and the book's publisher, Oxford University Press, under Sections 153 and 153-A of the Indian Penal Code. These sections pertain to 'wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot' and 'promoting enmity between different groups.'

Intellectuals in Maharashtra are shocked at the government's action, especially since they feel that no stringent action has been taken against the Sambhaji Brigade which vandalised the Bhandarkar Institute and destroyed priceless heritage property. 'It is truly amazing that the government has permitted an offence to be registered against O.U.P.,' says city lawyer Shrikant Bhat. 'While one concedes that acolytes of Shivaji may justifiably feel offended at a few sentences in Mr. Laine's book, has anyone considered the fact that the author came to Pune, studied Marathi, and consulted 23 Marathi books on Shivaji? Among them are Babasaheb Purandare's renowned work - and incidentally, there's more 'damaging' material on Shivaji in Purandare's book than in Laine's.'

Writer Dilip Chitre, one of the 13 people thanked by Laine in the foreword to his book, who has now been given special security, unequivocally condemns the Maharashtra government as 'impotent.' 'As everyone knows, the Sambhaji Brigade's parent organisation, the Maratha Mahasangh, has the indirect backing of Sharad Pawar,' he says. 'And the chief minister has been rendered impotent by his precarious position in politics.' The intelligentsia has said the government's actions belie its loyalties while ignoring the author's research, book and bind.