The Telegraph
Sunday , August 13 , 2017

After banning book, govt suspends tribal writer-doctor

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar 

Ranchi, Aug. 12: Sahitya Award-winning tribal writer Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar (34), whose book The Advisasi Will Not Dance was banned by the state government yesterday for allegedly portraying Santhal women in bad light, has been suspended from service, apparently for not taking permission before writing the book.

Pakur civil surgeon N.K. Mehra said he received the suspension order by email yesterday and had sent an emissary to deliver it to Hansda today.

"He (Hansda) was on deputation in Pakur for offering his services at the sadar hospital and district jail," Mehra said. Mehra could not recall the exact content of in the letter but claimed Hansda had been suspended because he did not take government's permission before writing the book.

Hansda, who was at work in Pakur as usual since morning today, had not received the suspension order till evening.

"I am a doctor and have to meet several people daily to treat them. I can't afford to take pressure," he told The Telegraph over phone from Pakur, over 300km from Ranchi, when asked whether he was rattled by the state government's ban on his book.

"I am not under any pressure. I am absolutely okay," said Hansda, whose book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, is a collection of 10 short stories in English that reviewers praised in 2015 for its hard-hitting look at tribal life on the margins.

The book was subsequently translated in Hindi, Marathi and Tamil.

Hansda said he stood by his book and there was no way he would alter its contents now, two years after its publication. One of the stories in the book, November Is the Month of Migration, has been picked up by certain tribal leaders and politicians, for allegedly being "pornographic" in nature.

"I won't make any changes. If I do so, then where is my freedom of expression," Hansda asked.

But some tribal leaders are saying that certain sections of the book have hurt the Santhali community?

"If I change anything, then there will be a problem for me. I would feel my liberties as a writer are hurt and lost. Let me put it this way, if there is a problem with my book, don't read it. Simple," he said.

Hansda went to on reiterate that the ban on his book had not deterred him in anyway. "I will continue to write on subjects and aspects which I deem fit," he said.

In the Assembly today, state parliamentary affairs minister Saryu Roy said that after having banned the book, the government was looking to slap a case against the writer under section 295 IPC. "Pakur deputy commissioner has informed the government that today some copies of the book had been seized. He (the writer) will be arrested," he said.

Section 295 of IPC pertains to injuring or defiling a place of worship and prescribes a sentence of up to two years in jail. Section 295A of the IPC is about deliberate and malicious acts intended to hurt religious sentiments or hurt any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs and carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.

While DC Dilip Kumar Jha could not be reached on the phone, sources in the district police clarified they had not received any formal order to arrest the doctor-writer.

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