/ 30 March 2011

Indian state bans Gandhi book over gay claims

An Indian state on Wednesday banned a new biography of Mahatma Gandhi which allegedly describes the Indian independence leader as a racist bisexual.

The chief minister of Gujarat state, where Gandhi was born in 1869, imposed an immediate block on Joseph Lelyveld’s book in a move that could be followed by India’s national government.

“The depiction about Mahatma Gandhi made by Joseph Lelyveld deserves to be despised,” Narendra Modi wrote on his internet blog. “This shall not be tolerated under any circumstance.

“The government of Gujarat has already decided to completely ban the book.”

Maharashtra state was also considering outlawing the book, which the author claims has been grossly misrepresented by reviewers.

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle With India was published in the United States on Tuesday but has not yet been released in India.

Local press outrage erupted over the British Daily Mail’s review headlined “Gandhi ‘left his wife to live with a male lover’ new book claims”, while the Daily Telegraph said he “held racist views against South African blacks”.

Attacked the reviews
Lelyveld, a former executive editor of the New York Times, attacked the reviews for distorting his book — particularly his analysis of Gandhi’s relationship with amateur bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach.

“I do not allege that Gandhi is racist or bisexual,” he said in a statement. “The word ‘bisexual’ nowhere appears in the book.”

National law minister Veerappa Moily said the government in New Delhi had “taken a serious note of the book that has made disgraceful statement on the national leader”.

“It is demeaning for the nation,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal review said the book depicted Gandhi — who is revered as the father of independent India and an icon of non-violent protest — as “a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist”.

Gandhi lived with Kallenbach in Johannesburg for about two years from 1907 before leaving South Africa to return to India in 1914.

Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan dismissed innuendo about Gandhi’s love life, but 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. — Sapa-AFP