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18 October, 2010

Such A Long Journey: protest reading in Mumbai

Three Mumbai groups, Citizen Initiative for Peace, Committee for Release of Dr Binayak Sen and the Mumbai Initiative for Human Rights Education jointly organized a reading of Rohinton Mistry’s novel “Such a Long Journey” at the Press Club today to protest against the withdrawal of the book from the university curriculum.

Mistry's award-winning novel, set in Mumbai of the early 70s, was being taught as a text to Second Year BA English Literature students. It was withdrawn suddenly on a demand made by the youngest Thackeray to emerge in the Shiv Sena.

Aditya Thackeray, 21-year-old grandson of Bal and son of Uddhav Thackeray, and a student of St Xavier's College, had asked the Vice Chancellor to withdraw the book because it contained uncomplimentary references to the Sena. The VC immediately complied.

Announcing plans for the protest reading, representatives of the three organizations had said, “For too long have parties like the Shiv Sena decided what we should read. Normally, politicians give in. This time, the man occupying the highest academic post in the University, the VC himself, went out of his way to oblige this particular student.”

Theatre personality Dolly Thakore and novelist Meher Pestonji read from the book.

This was followed by a discussion on “Censorship, Art & Politics'', led by well-known academician Prof Pushpa Bhave. Usha Subramaniam, Professor of English, who has taught the book, Kumar Prashant, writer and editor of Sarvodaya Jagat and Anand Teltumbde, writer and columnist of the Economic and Political Weekly participated in the discussion. Rohini Hensman, researcher and human rights activist, was in the chair.

Citizen Initiative for Peace is a group of over 80 activists, NGOs and other groups and individuals who have come together to initiate programmes, discussions and otherwise work towards maintaining peace in Mumbai city. Email-

Committee for Release of Dr Binayak Sen, Mumbai, was formed to campaign for the release of Dr Binayak Sen, vice-president PUCL, and a paediatrician who was arrested in 2006 under the draconian Chhattisgarh Public Security Act for standing up for tribal rights. After a two-year stint in prison, he is on bail now, while his trial continues. The group continues to fight for democratic rights and raises its voices against human rights violations. Email-

Mumbai Initiative for Human Rights Education is an organization whose seeds were sown at a National Human Rights Education Workshop organized in Mumbai in October 2003. Its mission is to promote human rights culture in the Mumbai metropolitan region through education in schools, colleges, universities and other higher educational institutions. Email-

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