Banned!

Bengali Books proscribed under the Raj, a new title from Samskriti, is by Sisir Kar of the Ananda Bazar Patrika. A translation of Kar's 1988 book in Bangla, British Shashoney Bajeyapto Bangla Boi (Ananda Publishers, Kolkata) the book analyses the historical background of the national movement in Bengal and the events that led to the proscription of a large number of Bengali publications.

The importance of Adda (loosely and incompletely translated as chatting or discussion) in the social life of Bengal has been written about often enough- but here is tangible evidence of its importance in the intellectual and scholarly life as well! A casual discussion during the 1970's at a friend’s house in London on the availability of rare Bengali books and either useful documents in the India House library and the British Museum sparked Kar's interest in proscribed books... Coming back to India, he kept visiting libraries of documentary sources in different parts of the country. The effort paid off, resulting in the two books, one in Bangla, and the other in English which draw heavily on classified government documents hitherto unavailable to historians and researchers, the cities examples of how writers, printers and publishers victims of political presecution had been oppressed for propagating the message of militant nationalism.

The dread of the free diffusion of knowledge had always prompted the panicky government to impose restrictions on press freedom. The first Press Act was introduced in 1823 by the then Governor General John Adams, when the avowed policy of the government had been “to keep the natives of India in the profoundest possible state of barbarism and darkness.”

As the revolutionary movement in Bengal gained momentum, particularly after 1905, the government conveniently introduced new laws to suppress the freedom of expression. The press Act of 1910 was followed by a series of draconian laws, which obviously helped the rulers in their attempt the gag the press. Scores of books, newspaper, magazines and even manuscripts were banned under the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) act of 1931 and the Defence of India Rules, a systematic account of which has been chronicled in this book. Meticulously documented, this treatise on banned Bengali books is a thorough study which is based on essentially all available evidence.

An important book, not just for the history of the nationalist era, but also relevant for today. In our History and in our Media Studies sections, Rs 595. In paperback, 440 pages, ISBN: 9788187374640

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