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Vajpayee frowns on banning of books

By Arunkumar Bhatt

MUMBAI, JAN. 16. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, today disapproved of the growing tendency to oppose violently, boycott or ban books because one disliked the views expressed therein.

His remarks come in the wake of the Maharashtra Government banning James Laine's book "Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India". He was unveiling a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at the Mumbai airport.

Paying rich tributes to Shivaji, Mr. Vajpayee recommended that the book be read and understood. He could understand criticism of books but not ban or boycott. He preferred discussion to such actions and recommended that people could come out with well-written and better-researched books by way of reply. "If you want to make a line appear short, do not erase it but draw a longer one beside it."

Activists belonging to the Sambhaji Brigade had ransacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune on January 5 protesting the alleged disparaging remarks against Shivaji in Laine's book. The miscreants damaged several rare manuscripts and priceless articles.

Mr. Vajpayee urged the State Government to protect the monuments and forts of historical value and offered Central assistance for the purpose. One could learn so much from history. "One can see the way for tomorrow in the awakening thoughts of Shivaji." Celebrations and functions held in memory of great personalities should be used for bringing about awareness about one's social duties and obligations like working for cleanliness and health.

Mr. Vajpayee praised the good work done in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, and said that he longed to see an India without slums. This was not impossible though that might not take place during his lifetime. He announced a grant of Rs. 500 crores for Dharavi's improvement. Interestingly, Dharavi falls in the constituency of the Lok Sabha Speaker, Manohar Joshi, who was present on the dais.

But he did not make further grants for scarcity relief in the State despite its mention by the Chief Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, in his speech.

The Prime Minister said that 14 States were facing scarcity conditions and the Centre was helping them without discrimination.

Enough foodgrains were being supplied at a very low price and even free to the segments covered by the Antyodaya scheme. His advice to the State was to pay more attention to efficient distribution of foodgrains in the affected areas.

Installation of a Shivaji statue was a long cherished dream of the Shiv Sena-BJP combine. Its leader, Bal Thackeray, who was on the dais, said that activists of the alliance had sought to forcibly install the statue 14 years ago.

"They lathi-charged and even `arrested' Shivaji Maharaj (the statue) who was later bailed out," he said in a lighter vein.

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