Jaipur: People who engaged in online harassment and burned my effigies have only emboldened me to “write more”, noted writer Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar has said in the wake of the controversy sparked by his second book ‘The Adivasi Will Not Dance’.
The 34-year-old writer, a recipient of a Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar, had to face continuous online flak for a year- and-a-half from members of the Adivasi community who thought the book portrayed his own Santhal people, especially women, “in a bad light”.
In August last year, the Jharkhand government banned the book. It suspended the writer, a medical officer at a district health centre 400 km from the capital Ranchi, and asked him to explain his actions.
“It was embarrassing. The irony was that the people who have been accused of harassing women were the ones showing that they respect women,” Shekhar said at the eleventh edition of Jaipur Literature Festival.
“I was told that a law and order situation was created because of my book. How can a book be blamed for creating a law and order situation?” the author wondered.
Interestingly, the author’s first novel ‘The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey’ published in 2015, though critically acclaimed also found itself at the centre of controversy back then.
But it seems it was much ado about nothing!
According to the author, the intention of instilling fear in him has only ended up encouraging him to write more on the issues he wants to write about.
“These people burnt my effigies. The campaign they started on the social media against me showed their character…Most of these people who threaten me are paper tigers. These people only encourage us to write more.
Opposition encouraged me to write more,” he said.
However, acknowledging the support and protection he got from the fellow writers, he did say that protecting people was not the job of writers.
“I approached police for help, but was told to keep a body guard,” he said while participating in a session titled as “Banned in India” along with other notable writers like Mridula Garg and Paro Anand.
One of Hindi’s famous author Mridula Garg too shared her story as she talked about her arrest after the release of her novel ‘Chittacobra’.
She said she was so frustrated by the experience that she felt motivated to write another book.
But, needless to say, the authors discussing the topics didn’t agree among themselves on all the counts.
So where Shekhar was grateful to writers for their support, Garg, on the other hand, expressed sadness at the lack of support from the authors.
“When a goon does something, the state does nothing to protect you. The state colludes with the goon to get you arrested.
“The writer community till date has not expressed any remorse. They pretended as if nothing had happened,” she added.
Discussing the tools that the authors have to counter any book ban, Garg said one of the best way was to organise a public reading.
“One voice is enough to start a movement. Keeping quiet is not the answer,” she added.
Paro, another writer who writes for children and has seen her work banned in some schools, said the state should do more to punish these people who demand bans on books and on films like the recent ‘Padmavaat’.
“It is not right to paint the entire situation with a broad brush. If you are not happy with a particular book, the best thing to do is not to read that book or write your own book instead,” she said.