Intolerance to dissenting books decried at World Book Fair opening

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New Delhi, Feb 2 (UNI) The 18th World Book Fair was inuagurated here today with eminent writer U R Ananthamurthy condemning the growing tendency to ban books succumbing to increasing demands of religious groups.

He appealed to the society to be more tolerant to dissenting views and let a book, however unpleasant to them, give a chance to come up and be judged on merit.

Mr Murthy said it was unfortunate that in India people were increasingly dismissing a book because of religious intolerance.

He was delivering the presidential address at the inaugural ceremony at which guests of honour were noted scientist Prof CNR Rao and Mr Andre Romenchenko, Deputy Head, Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication, Russia, which is the guest of honour country at the Book Fair.

Minister for Human Resource Development Arjun Singh who was to inaugurate the event could not turn up due to some reasons and his address was read by Additional secretary in the Ministry K M Acharya.

Mr Murthy recalled an incident in Canada when he had to face a massive protest for releasing a book very critical of Islam by ''an eminenet writer'' without the potestors realising that he (Mr Murthy) was very critical of the book.

Noting with dismay that Indians living abroad were becoming more zealous about Hindutva, he said people like him were natural Hindus and they knew the value of their religious books, but they also criticise the elements in them they think should be critcised.

He said books created a web of social relations which is very fulfilling. ''You meet at a point where you can praise, evaluate or criticise a book. Books are a romance whose pleasures can be known only if one indulges into it.

Mr Murthy said he stood for empowerment of all Indian languages and appealed to the government to treat all the languages spoken equally.

He sought to remind that great authors like Shakespeare wrote in the languages which did not have a widespread reach in their time.

Speaking as guest of honour Prof Rao called upon scientists to come forward to write books for children as there was lack of good science books for the young people.

He said 70 per cent of the country's population was living in rural areas which were not adequately covered by good educational institutions, so there was the need of such books as the children could read on their own.

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