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5 Wonderful Books That Are Banned In Some Places Around The World, But Available In India!

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By Itika Singh:

Indians are not strangers to the concept of banned books. Names such as Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin and more recently, Wendy Doniger, are known to us as solely in this context. India, despite its claims of being the world’s largest democracy, has a quite extensive list of banned works. However, those suffering from an innate itch to satiate the curiosity that is only heightened when something is forbidden do not need to despair just yet. Here is a list of 5 books that are banned in places around the world, but reading them in India won’t make you a criminal. Not yet anyway.

banned books week

1. The Da Vinci Code

This Dan Brown best-seller is not only condemned by the Catholic Church but also out-rightly banned in a number of countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and even in the Indian state of Nagaland. It’s safe to say that the suggestion that Jesus Christ could have fathered a baby with his devout follower Mary Magdalene is not a popular one. Nevertheless, if you haven’t read this book already, read it for Brown’s recurring protagonist Robert Langdon, the fiction-fused history lessons and also to know about secret ancients sects, all this as the main characters travel across France to solve the mystery behind a sensational murder.

2. Mein Kampf

The autobiography of one of the most hated men in history, the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, faces bans or restrictions on publication and distribution in a number of European countries as well as nations like China, Mexico, and Russia. The restrictions have been put up to keep a check on anti-Semitic sentiments even as some German-Jew leaders have themselves asked for the ban to be lifted believing that the key to countering Nazism is exposing it in a free society. You can find Hitler’s stern face peering at you from every book stall in Connaught Place. Reading this controversial autobiography, which was used as a means of propaganda during the Second World War, can give you an insight into the mind of a man held responsible for the deaths of countless Jews.

3. Things Fall Apart

Restricted in Malaysia on grounds of portraying colonialism in a bad light, the book was also banned in West Nigeria in response to political comments made by its author Chinua Achebe. India, though, recognizes this milestone in African writing. It is a part of syllabus for English Honours students in Delhi University, and so, is easily available. The book was featured in Time magazine’s 2005 list of 100 best novels and has been translated into 50 languages. Read this to find out how it brought Nigerian writing to the attention of the world and more interestingly, the fate of its third- world characters.

4. American Psycho

This book by the American author Bret Easton Ellis left audiences shocked and horrified. The main character is portrayed as a banker-by-day and serial-killer by night. Restrictions were put on the book in Germany, which were later lifted in 2005. In Australia, restrictions remain and only individuals above the age of 18 years are allowed to purchase the book. The book can be ordered online in India. This book should be definitely read by fans of crime and psychological thrillers.

5. Freedom from Fear

This is a collection of essays was written by the icon of the pro-democracy campaign in Burma – Aung San Suu Kyi. She was put under house-arrest for almost 15 years by the military junta government. All of her writings are banned in her native country, but are widely available in India. This book is a perfect recipe for being inspired to bring change.

Though, we still need a visa and a flight ticket to read books like The Satanic Verses or controversial accounts of Mahatma Gandhi’s and Nehru’s lives, efforts such as the ‘Banned Books Week’ are creating more and more awareness about this questionable practice. With this, the irony of banning books in a state that promises freedom of expression is once again occupying centre stage. The line between checking misinformation and misuse of government power must be made clear. Also, states must acknowledge their citizens’ ability to make sound decisions. At the same time, different sets of people in our society need to be more accommodating to views that go against their own.

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  1. Js

    Can you please also provide us with the list of books banned in India.

    1. Itika

      The following books are banned in India:
      Hindu Heaven, Max Wylie (1934); The Face of Mother India, Katherine Mayo (1936); Old Soldier Sahib, Frank Richards (1936); The Land of the Lingam, Arthur Miles, (1937); Mysterious India, Moki Singh (1940); The Scented Garden (Anthropology of the Sex Life in the Levant), Bernhard Stern, translated by David Berger (1945); What has Religion done for Mankind, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (1955); Rama Retold, Aubrey Menen (1955); Dark Urge, Robert W. Taylor (1955); The Ramayana, Aubrey Menen (1956); Captive Kashmir, Aziz Beg (1958); The Heart of India, Alexander Campbell (1959); The Lotus and the Robot, Arthur Koestler (1960); Nine Hours to Rama, Stanley Wolpert (1962); Unarmed Victory, Bertrand Russell (1963); Nepal, Toni Hagen (1963); Ayesha, Kurt Frishchler, translated by Norman Denny (1963); Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence (1964); The Jewel in the Lotus (A Historical Survey of the Sexual Culture of the East), Allen Edwards (1968); The Evolution of the British Empire and Commonwealth from the American Revolution, Alfred Le Ray Burt (1969); A Struggle between Two Lines over the Question of How to Deal with U.S. Imperialism, Fan Asid-Chu (1969); Man from Moscow, Greville Wynne (1970); Early Islam, Desmond Steward (1975); Nehru: A Political Biography, Michael Edwards (1975); India Independent, Charles Bettelheim (1976); China’s Foreign Relations Since 1949, Alan Lawrence (1978); Who killed Gandhi, Lourenco De Sadvandor (1979); Understanding Islam through Hadis, Ram Swarup (1982); Smash and Grab: Annexation of Sikkim, Sunanda Datta-Ray (1984); The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie (1988); Soft Target: How the Indian Intelligence Service Penetrated Canada, Zuhair Kashmeri and Brian McAndrew (1989); The Polyester Prince, Hamish McDonald (1998); The True Furqan, “Al Saffee” and “Al Mahdee” (1999); Islam: A Concept of Political World Invasion, R.V. Bhasin (2007 – Maharashtra); Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India, Joseph Lelyveld (2011 – Gujarat). And also recently, Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus- An Alternative History was also added to this list.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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