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Scrapping launch of book on women's issues draws flak

Posted on Feb 04 2014 | IANS

Kolkata, Feb 4 : Terming censorship of books "extremely objectionable", leading intellectuals of the city Tuesday slammed the decision of the Kolkata Book Fair authorities to cancel the release of a book on crimes against women.

The launch of "Parijayee Naree" (displaced or migrant women) that deals with critical women's issues, including violence, was blocked Monday at the ongoing 38th International Kolkata Book Fair on the grounds of violence against women being a "debatable and sensitive" issue.

It is published by the women's rights organisation - Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Manch (Forum Against Atrocities on Women) - and is centred on the first Maitreyee Chattopadhyay memorial lecture delivered by leading Indian feminist Jasodhara Bagchi in 2013.

Bagchi was also the former chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women.

Miratun Nahar, a prominent activist, who has on various occasions derided the West Bengal government for failing to curb atrocities on women, was slated to launch the book.

"The book fair organisers (Booksellers and Publishers Guild) cancelled the release at the last moment and told us the content (violence against women) was debatable and sensitive," Saswati Ghosh, one of the founder members of the forum, told IANS.

"But it (the book) does not deal with politics ... that means a book on women's issues is looked as sensitive ... something that needs to be discussed across India, is dubbed sensitive," said Ghosh, adding the Guild also pointed out a technicality regarding the booking of the auditorium for the release.

Critically acclaimed author Nabaneeta Dev Sen said the move shrinks the space available for discussion on women's rights.

"Book fair is a space for discussion ... and there isn't enough space for discussion on women's issues. This is closing up a space. I can't understand their arguments for cancelling the release ... the lecture is already available in public domain and it challenges the situation all over India," Sen told IANS.

"Censorship of books is extremely objectionable ... we all are against it," added Sen.

However, West Bengal State Heritage Commission Chairman Shuvaprasanna, a noted artist said, "It is not simple ... from their past experience, the book fair authorities have been trying to stop the use of the event as a political platform."

Ghosh, though, contended the forum to be "not a political organisation".

"We do not take a political stand ... and we have been outspoken during the erstwhile Left Front regime as well. We are just carrying on our endeavour to fight for rights of women. If this is happening, then I must say it is a very unfortunate and sorry state of affairs in West Bengal," she said.

Noted painter Samir Aich said it is "unfortunate" as women's rights are important issues.

"I do not know who are they (book fair authorities) trying to please," he told IANS.

Guild general secretary Tridib Chatterjee told reporters Monday that the release was cancelled to avoid a situation where Nahar could again publicly comment.

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