India suddenly seems keen on banning books. The Justice Minister, Moodbidri Veerappa Moily, is considering legislation to protect Mahatma Gandhi from "insults". This has been prompted by a new biography of the Indian independence leader that suggests Gandhi might have been bisexual. Gujarat, the state where the Mahatma was born, has already banned the book.
The urge to protect national heroes is understandable. And in the case of Gandhi there has been ample provocation. In 2009 Mont Blanc released a golden pen featuring the visage of the Mahatma. The price of £16,000 did not go down well with those in India who remembered Gandhi's rejection of material wealth and advocacy of a simple life.
But India should beware using legislation to protect the reputation of its independence hero. As Gandhi himself noted, "intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause". Gandhi's reputation is surely robust enough not to require new laws to protect it.
Mr Moily has argued that "we can't allow anybody to draw adverse inferences about historical figures and denigrate them. Otherwise history will not forgive us". But the Justice Minister has it backwards. What history will find unforgivable are attempts to prevent history being freely written.Reuse content