Sahitya Akademi recipient and renowned Tamil writer Joe D’Cruz is angry, shocked and deeply upset.
His Facebook post, praising Gujarat chief minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the upcoming elections was trigger enough for his Delhi-based publisher Navayana to cancel the English translation of his critically acclaimed Tamil novel Aazhi soozh ulagu (published in 2004).
“How can anyone tell you to change your personal opinion?” fumes the author, in an interaction with Bhama Devi Ravi
Q: We hear the publication of the English version of your novel Aazhi Soozh Ulagu has been cancelled by Navayana. Is this true?
A: Yes. I have an email to that effect. For the last year and a half I had been closely coordinating the translation of the novel with V Geetha the translator and we had done fantastic work, ensuring that the native flavor was not lost in translation. Once it became clear the novel was going to be translated in English, a number of other publishing houses approached me, offering to publish it, but I turned them down saying I had already struck a deal with Navayana. The book was ready for publishing.
Meanwhile, last Wednesday I had posted my personal views on Narendra Modi on facebook. Because I praised Modi’s work, people were jumping on it with their comments, but I did not worry over much. That happens on social networking sites. Then I received the email from the publishers asking me to change my view.
Q: They asked you to change your view?
A: Yes, and I am still in a state of shock. How can anyone blackmail you into changing your stance? This is about freedom of speech. India is a democratic country, but today it would appear that no individual can state his idea or opinion freely, which is really a huge shame. This is such a sorry state of affairs, and I am still shell shocked.
The publishers are my friends and that hurts. But even if you are my friend, you cannot force me to change my opinion of anybody. No one has the right to force anyone else to curb free thinking.
Image: Wikipedia / Gavaskar Theekkathir