But Gandhi's great grandson opposes censorship
London, UK - 7 April 2011
The Indian state of Gujarat has banned a new book about Mohandas 'Mahatma' Gandhi in protest against its revelation that the Indian independence leader left his wife to live with a man.
In a similar direct threat to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, there are calls to ban the biography in other states and throughout India.
Commendably, some of Gandhi's descendents have opposed such censorship, calling for free and open debate: http://tinyurl.com/4t62fu6
Gandhi's great grandson, Tushar Gandhi, responded to the Gujarat ban with the comment: "How does it matter if the Mahatma was straight, gay or bisexual? Every time he would still be the man who led India to freedom."
The book - Great Soul - is broadly pro-Gandhi, although not uncritical or sycophantic. Written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former executive editor of the New Times, Joseph Lelyveld, it reveals Gandhi's love for the German-Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach, when he lived in South Africa in the early years of the 20th century. They shared a home together and worked together politically on the non-violent resistance struggle in South Africa.
The evidence of Gandhi's relationship with Kallenbach comes from letters between them, including Gandhi's profession of love for Kallenbach.
"Your portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom," he wrote to Kallenbach. "The mantelpiece is opposite to the bed."
Gandhi added: "How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance." Gandhi asked Hermann promise not to "look lustfully upon any woman." The two men pledged "more love, and yet more love....(such as) the world has not yet seen."
For more information, see paragraph 11 of this book review by the historian Andrew Roberts, published in the Wall Street Journal: http://tiny.cc/1mtgf
"Critics of the book condemn the author for revealing that Gandhi loved a man. They say this is insulting to his memory and offensive to the whole Indian nation. What nonsense. His sexuality does not diminish his political achievements or his character one iota. Only a homophobe would take offence at the evidence that Gandhi had a same-sex relationship," said Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
"I speak as someone for whom Gandhi has been a great political inspiration. He wasn't a saint but he was a very great man. Despite his faults and flaws, he played a leading role in securing Indian independence, forcing out the greatest colonial power in history - the mighty British Empire - by entirely non-violent resistance. Defeating the British and securing Indian independence by peaceful mass protest was a truly remarkable feat, which far outweighs his shortcomings.
"Freedom of expression, including the right to express ideas that others may find offensive, is a fundamental human right. Bans diminish open debate and critical inquiry. It is the job of historians and biographers to search for the truth and publish what they find without fear or favour. Censorship is a sign of weakness and a threat to democracy," added Mr Tatchell.