Banjagere Jayaprakash may be no Salman Rushdie but his Kannada work Aanu deva horaganavanu is hurtling into a major literary tsunami. The slim 85-page book which makes the incendiary claim that the 12th century social reformer and Veerashaiva icon Basavanna was not a Brahmin but belonged to the untouchable maadiga (chamar) caste, has proved to be pure dynamite, especially among the politically powerful Lingayats, who say Basavanna has been insulted.
Protests and processions have broken out in several parts of Karnataka. A picketing of the Vidhana Soudha has been lined up for later this month. And the clamour is now growing for the book to be proscribed. Should the book be banned because it “hurts” Lingayat feelings? Or should its contents be discussed, disputed and debated? Can a writer “scholar” make whatever claim he wants without opening himself to scrutiny? If we keep banning books that somebody somewhere doesn’t like, what will we be left with?