Saturday, July 17, 2010

We should be prudent not to make any pronouncement

5 July 2010 From RY Deshpande [...] Dear Manoj-baboo
I am referring to the letter dated 21 June 2010 signed by Dilip Datta and addressed to Kittu Reddy, Ranganath Raghavan, and Sumita Khandpal. This was in response to the summary of discussion prepared by them after they had a meeting with you personally on 9 May 2010. [...]
But let me first quote what is said in the 21st June letter from the trustees:

As regards the book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, the issue as to whether the content of the book is offensive, warranting a ban on the book, is the subject matter of adjudication by the High Court of Orissa, in a litigation initiated in their wisdom by some devotees there. It is therefore inappropriate for the Trust, whatever be the perceptions of the trustees to pronounce itself on an issue seized of by the Court from as early as October 2008 or so. We are informed that the Writ Petition lists out and quotes a very large number of specific citations from the book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo with a prayer to issue a Writ of Mandamus to ban the printing, publication and distribution of the impugned book. In June 2009 or so, a newspaper report from Orissa claimed that a group of persons have filed a contempt application in that particular Writ Petition in the High Court of Orissa against the trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust for interfering with the orders of the Court. It is besides the point that the claim was apparently false. However the news report serves as a reminder that we should be prudent not to make any pronouncement on an issue being adjudicated upon by the High Court. Hence our comments on this topic can necessarily be only very general, not in any way impinging into the prohibited domain.


  1. Pondicherry seems to harbor fascists in the garb of practitioners and self-styled pontiffs of integral yoga! The attempts of those who seek to ban Heehs' book only makes India and some of its laws and judicial systems an object of ridicule in 21st century liberal democracies! The recent case of a teacher in Kerala who had an innocuous critical question on Islam in one of his tests and had his arm cut off by barbarians as punishment for that heinous thought crime is another case pointing to the gulf between the "street realities" in India and its pretensions to and projected image of being a secular, liberal democracy. The outrageous fact about the case of that teacher in Kerala is not only the punishment meted out to him by the religious barbarians, but the fact, as reported by some news sources, that the local government was considering further punishment for him on grounds of "slandering" Islam!!! All this for a banal question on Islam in one of his tests! Oh, India! You have surely "arrived" in the 21st century!

  2. May those who seek to ban Heehs' book or any other book in India reflect on the following each morning as if it were a veritable Gayatri! It may well produce an illumination in mind exceeding the traditional Gayatri!
    From John Stuart Mill's On Liberty:
    "We have now recognised the necessity to the mental well-being of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of freedom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate.
    First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.
    Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.
    Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.
    And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience."