Sowvendra Shekhar Hansda is under fire for allegedly portraying Santhal women in poor light
Ranchi, Aug. 11: The Jharkhand government has banned an almost two-year-old collection of short stories by the winner of a Sahitya Akademi award for young writers on the ground that it portrayed Santhal women in a bad light and could provoke a backlash.
The Adivasi Will Not Dance, a collection of 10 short stories in English, was written by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, 34, a doctor based in Pakur, 400km from Ranchi.
Ever since the book was published in November 2015, Hansda has been the target of a troll onslaught online, with some critics accusing him of writing porn to denigrate tribal culture. Hansda himself traces his roots to the tribal community.
Last week, Hansda’s effigy was burnt in Pakur and earlier this week, the Jharkhand special branch sent a confidential note to the state home secretary saying Santhals were angered by Hansda’s writings and the situation could turn volatile.
This morning, the Opposition JMM’s Sita Soren, a Santhal legislator, raised the issue in the Assembly without naming the book, saying its contents insulted Santhal women. Immediately, her brother-in-law and leader of the Opposition Hemant Soren called for a ban on the book.
Hemant Soren, leader of Opposition and acting chief of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, supported Tudu’s contention and demanded that action be taken against Hansda as he was a government doctor.
Holding that the sentiment of the entire House, across party lines, was in favour of action against Hansda, BJP chief whip in the Assembly Radha Krishna Kishore said: “The matter requires action under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.”
Presenting the government’s stand on the matter in the House, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Saryu Roy said: “The government is aware of the development and was already planning action in this regard.” The Deputy Commissioner of Pakur has been asked to inquire into the matter and take strict action, he told the House. He, however, rejected Soren’s proposal to bring the book in the House, saying it was a case where the book should be banned.
In the evening, chief minister and BJP leader Raghubar Das asked chief secretary Rajbala Verma to seize all copies of the book and start legal proceedings against Hansda. A directive added that the book should neither be sold nor promoted or circulated in any way.
Hansda could not be reached for comment tonight. A few days ago, he had told The Telegraph that one of his stories that was being labelled pornographic, November Is the Month of Migration, chronicled how hunger made a Santhal girl take a desperate measure.
“She surrenders to a man for money as she wanted to eat something. Extreme poverty pushes many to desperation,” he had said.
Hansda had won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar for his debut novel, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey, in 2015.
Nayantara Sahgal, among the authors who have condemned the attempts to hound Hansda online, today said: “In a democratic society, no government has the right to ban a book someone disagrees with.”
According to the news report, the third story in Hansda’s book The Adivasi Will Not Dance talks about a Santhal woman who agrees to go to bed with a man in exchange for food. The report also mentions that the Home Department has been informed about anger prevailing in Santhal Pargana region due to the book. Some tribal groups have burnt effigies and taken out marches in protest.