Ashok Chavan Agrees With Shiv Sena on Mistry Book

Mumbai/New Delhi
Ashok Chavan Agrees With Shiv Sena on Mistry Book
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has said Rohinton Mistry's book Such A Long Journey contains 'objectionable language'.

"There is objectionable language in Rohinton Mistry's book and we wouldn't approve his book for students," he said.

"Just because somebody asked the book to be introduced, without following procedure and formalities, it was just introduced at somebody's behest," Chavan told a TV channel.

The Chief Minister however said these were his personal views and that he would not like to interfere in the affairs of the Mumbai University, which has received flak from several quarters for withdrawing the book after the Shiv Sena made a demand. He also made it clear he was not siding with anyone.

Chavan said he had not read the entire book but only portions of it, and that he found the language "highly objectionable".

"I have not gone through the entire book. Whatever paras were shown to me, I read that, the language is highly abusive...Do we expect our students to go through such books and use them in the educational curriculum," Chavan told reporters in Mumbai.

Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry had voiced dismay over Mumbai University providing "deluxe service via express delivery" in quickly dropping his Booker-nominated book from college syllabus following a demand by Shiv Sena.

"A political party demanded change in syllabus and Mumbai University provided deluxe service via express delivery making the book disappear the very next day," Mistry had said.

"It has come perilously close to institutionalizing the ugly notion of self-censorship," he added.

Ashok Chavan has effectively agreed with the Shiv Sena on the book that was recently withdrawn from the syllabus of Mumbai University following protests from Bal Thackeray's grandson Aditya Thackeray.

Chavan said he felt such texts were unsuitable for inclusion in educational curricula. He said he did not think children should be exposed to such language or be asked to use it in the examinations.

The Congress immediately rushed in to distance itself from the Chief Minister's views of the book, calling them personal and said the University was free to do what it wanted but that the party's stand could not be the same as the Shiv Sena's.

In New Delhi, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said the Chief Minister is obviously entitled to his views.

"Shiv Sena and Congress can never be on the same page. Our idea of India is very different from their sectarian approach."

The spokesman emphasized that sometimes on issues which impinged on public order or communal amity, one has to be circumspect and discreet.

But, he said the Congress has always maintained that wherever it is incumbent that public order does not get deviated one should refrain from interfering into the exercise of any kind of cultural or literary freedom which are enshrined in the Constitution.

Asked whether he expects such a restraint even from a government ruled by a Congress led alliance, Tewari said, "We would expect that every government be it Congress or non-Congress whichever is there will uphold Constitutional norms."

Welcoming Chavan's remarks, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, "If the CM of the state is with us, then you have to understand that we are right."

"When it comes to the culture of Maharashtra being abused by someone and defamed, then the chief minister of the state has to take a stand against the book. Shiv Sena has taken up the issue and the book has been banned by the Mumbai university," he added.

Tiwari said Mumbai University is an autonomous university and that it is not under the Maharashtra government. "If anyone has objections to the book, there are appropriate fora," he said.

Chavan said he was told by the University's Vice Chancellor that they have not followed the "proper process" before the book was withdrawn from the undergraduate syllabus.

"Anyway, if a Committee would have gone through the details of the book, I don't think it would have itself approved the book," he added.

"However, I am not interfering into the affairs of the university. I leave it to the university to decide whether they would approve or endorse such a book," the chief minister said.
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