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Page last updated at 07:58 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 08:58 UK

India state bans book on Jinnah

Jaswant Singh
The day we start banning books, we are banning thinking
Jaswant Singh

Authorities in the western Indian state of Gujarat state have banned a controversial book on Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

The book has been written by Jaswant Singh, an expelled leader of the Hindu nationalist main opposition party BJP.

The BJP government in Gujarat said it banned the book for its "defamatory references" to Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first home minister.

The late Mr Patel is a political icon in his home state of Gujarat.

Described often as the "Iron Man of India", Mr Patel played an important role in the country's independence and the integration of the different states in the Indian Union.

"The book has been banned because it contains defamatory references regarding Vallabhai Patel who is considered as the architect of the modern India," a statement by the Gujarat government says.

Jaswant Singh's book is a serious academic exercise, one long overdue. A serious political party should have space for that
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, analyst

"It is a bid to defame Patel by distorting historical facts. So, the state government has decided to ban the book with immediate effect for wider public interest."

Jaswant Singh said he was "saddened" by the banning of the book in Gujarat.

"The day we start banning books, we are banning thinking," he said.

Jaswant Singh book examines the role of Congress party leader and the country's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Mr Patel in the partition of India in 1947.

He writes that Mr Patel was "far off the mark" in many ways with his projections about the division and future of India.

The book was released earlier this week and immediately created a controversy.

The BJP "dissociated" itself from the book and sacked Mr Singh from the party.

'Anti-intellectual'

Jaswant Singh, a 71-year-old party veteran who has served as finance and external affairs minister in BJP cabinets, said he was "saddened" by his expulsion.

BJP supporters
The party is plagued by infighting

"It saddens me even more that I have been expelled on grounds of writing a book," he said.

Mr Singh has said that his book is a "purely academic exercise, which should be read and understood".

Analysts have criticised the BJP for sacking Mr Singh over a book.

"Jaswant Singh's book is a serious academic exercise, one long overdue. It is complicated, full of internal tensions. A serious political party should have space for that," wrote political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express.

"In expelling Jaswant Singh the BJP has confirmed the fears of its worst critics: that the party is nothing but a party founded on endless resentment that makes it inherently insecure and anti-intellectual."

The Times Of India daily said Mr Singh's expulsion raised questions about free thinking and free speech in cadre-based, ideology driven parties.

"Surely it is not impossible for a political outfit to function without asking members to always agree with party views," the newspaper said.

The Hindu says it is for "historians to evaluate the scholarly merit of Mr Singh's work".

"But who is to say that a political figure, especially when he or she is out of power, is not to dabble in such sensitive areas," the newspaper wrote.



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