Amnesty criticises book ban in Jharkhand

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New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) The Jharkhand governments decision to ban a collection of short stories by an Adivasi writer and suspend him from his government job for allegedly hurting peoples sentiments is an attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International India said on Monday.

On August 11, Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das directed authorities to ban Hansda Showvendra Sekhar’s book “The Adivasi Will Not Dance”, two years after its release, following protests against the book, an Amnesty statement said.

Politicians and others have alleged that the book – which focuses on the lives of Santhal Adivasis in Jharkhand – shows Adivasi women in a poor light.

“By banning this book, the Jharkhand government has not only undermined the right to freedom of expression but also caved to pressure from groups targeting Hansda Sekhar,” said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India.

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Under Section 95 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), state governments can ban and seize books, newspapers, paintings or other items that “appear” to violate criminal laws on sedition, obscenity, promoting enmity between different groups or hurting religious sentiments.

A day after the ban, Jharkhand’s Health Minister told the state assembly that Hansda Sekhar had been suspended from his position as a Medical Officer.

According to media reports, days before the ban, Adivasi groups had burnt an effigy of Hansda Sekhar and also trolled him online, saying that his book was “pure porn”.

“It’s disappointing that as India celebrates its 70th year of independence, state governments are still censoring literature and deciding what people can and cannot read, based on vague and overly broad legal provisions,” said Asmita Basu.

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“The Jharkhand government must immediately lift the ban on the book, reinstate Hansda Sekhar, and refrain from taking any action against him for his work,” Amnesty said.



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