Book on Adivasis banned

The Jharkhand government has banned an almost two-year-old collection of short stories by the winner of a Sahitya Akademi award for young writers on the ground that it portrayed Santhal women in a bad light and could provoke a backlash.

By Our Bureau in Ranchi
  • Published 12.08.17
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Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

Ranchi, Aug. 11: The Jharkhand government has banned an almost two-year-old collection of short stories by the winner of a Sahitya Akademi award for young writers on the ground that it portrayed Santhal women in a bad light and could provoke a backlash.

The Adivasi Will Not Dance, a collection of 10 short stories in English, was written by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, 34, a doctor based in Pakur, 400km from Ranchi.

Ever since the book was published in November 2015, Hansda has been the target of a troll onslaught online, with some critics accusing him of writing porn to denigrate tribal culture. Hansda himself traces his roots to the tribal community.

Last week, Hansda's effigy was burnt in Pakur and earlier this week, the Jharkhand special branch sent a confidential note to the state home secretary saying Santhals were angered by Hansda's writings and the situation could turn volatile.

This morning, the Opposition JMM's Sita Soren, a Santhal legislator, raised the issue in the Assembly without naming the book, saying its contents insulted Santhal women. Immediately, her brother-in-law and leader of the Opposition Hemant Soren called for a ban on the book.

In the evening, chief minister and BJP leader Raghubar Das asked chief secretary Rajbala Verma to seize all copies of the book and start legal proceedings against Hansda. A directive added that the book should neither be sold nor promoted or circulated in any way.

Hansda could not be reached for comment tonight. A few days ago, he had told The Telegraph that one of his stories that was being labelled pornographic, November Is the Month of Migration, chronicled how hunger made a Santhal girl take a desperate measure.

"She surrenders to a man for money as she wanted to eat something. Extreme poverty pushes many to desperation," he had said.

Hansda had won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar for his debut novel, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey, in 2015. 

Nayantara Sahgal, among the authors who have condemned the attempts to hound Hansda online, today said: "In a democratic society, no government has the right to ban a book someone disagrees with."