Booker author Rohinton Mistry in Mumbai university row

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Image caption,
Mistry says that the university is "perilously close to institutionalising... self-censorship"

Celebrated Indian-born author Rohinton Mistry has strongly objected to his book being dropped from the Mumbai University curriculum.

Such a Long Journey was withdrawn after the nationalist Shiv Sena party staged protests against its "derogatory" references to party members.

Mistry labelled the move "a sorry spectacle of book-burning".

The novel - shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1991 - was on the university's second-year Bachelor of Arts syllabus.

Offensive language

A Shiv Sena official met the university's vice-chancellor and objected to the book, which was removed from the syllabus last month.

Many in the arts community - including noted documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan - have strongly objected to the move which they say was implemented too hastily under the university's "emergency provision" rules.

University officials insist that they have followed the correct procedures before dropping the book which they say contains offensive language.

Shiv Sena has a reputation for taking a violent stand against events in Mumbai that it does not approve of.

The book is about Gustad Noble, a Parsi bank clerk struggling to provide for his family. It holds a mirror throughout his life of Mumbai in the early 1970s.

'Depressingly familiar'

It contains observations about the Shiv Sena - sometimes in conversations and sometimes in narrative - which are none too complimentary about their politics.

Image caption,
Few politicians have actually read the book

The conversational language in the book is typically Parsi, laced with humour and expletives.

Reacting to the ban, Mistry - who is Canadian - criticised the vice chancellor for "succumbing to political pressure".

"In this sorry spectacle of book-burning and book-banning, the Shiv Sena has followed its depressingly familiar, tediously predictable script of threats and intimidation that Mumbai has endured since the organisation's founding in 1966," a statement released by the author said.

"More bobbing, weaving, and slippery behaviour is no doubt in the offing. But one thing remains: a political party demanded an immediate change in syllabus, and Mumbai University provided deluxe service via express delivery, making the book disappear the very next day."

However Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said he too felt that the language of the book was offensive.

Mr Chavan - like many other politicians who have spoken on the issue - said that he had not read the book in its entirety but had seen some passages.

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