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Gandhi Biography Causes Furor In India

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Gandhi Biography Causes Furor In India

Gandhi Biography Causes Furor In India

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Still, NPR's Corey Flintoff reports that the proposed ban has prompted many people to defend the author's right to publish.

COREY FLINTOFF: This is Vijay Jolly, spokesman for India's main opposition party, the BJP - or Bharatiya Janata Party - in New Delhi.

NORRIS: If even a passing reference casts any aspirations on Mahatma's great personality and persona, then certainly, we have a right to demand a review or a ban on the book.

FLINTOFF: The passages to which Jolly objects come from letters written by Gandhi to Hermann Kallenbach, with whom Gandhi lived in South Africa before the First World War.

NORRIS: Now, even a passing reference that Mahatma left his wife to live with a so-called German Jew bodybuilder, which we consider to be derogatory in nature.

FLINTOFF: Lelyveld does quote Gandhi's letters to Kallenbach, which he says are full of strong expressions of love.

NORRIS: If you think love has to be sexual, love between two men can only exist if it's sexual, then I guess this was sexual. But if you - as the book says, if you look at what the two men actually said, and at their efforts in their time together to repress any hint of sexual urges, I think you'll find that at least I don't suggest that it was bisexual.

FLINTOFF: Lelyveld says the controversy in India was stoked by a review of the book by historian Andrew Roberts.

NORRIS: The word got into play, I think, because of the coverage in a Wall Street Journal review that basically trashed Gandhi. Didn't particularly trash my book, but used some of the material in the book to trash Gandhi. I think he used the term sexual weirdo.

FLINTOFF: Many people have come forward to defend Lelyveld's right to publish. Tushar Gandhi, the Mahatma's great-grandson, says the family opposes any effort to restrict freedom of opinion because Gandhi stood for freedom.

NORRIS: Then on the pretext of protecting his honor, if these kind of draconian, antidemocratic measures are taken, they must be condemned and opposed.

FLINTOFF: Readers in India are already ordering "Great Soul" on the Internet, and Amazon says India accounts for 33 percent of its foreign sales.

G: Corey Flintoff, NPR News, New Delhi.

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