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Opposition party bans book by dissident member

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is alarmed to learn that a new book that pays tribute to Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and criticises Vallabhbhai Patel, a politician widely regarded as the architect of modern India, has been banned in the western state of Gujarat, which is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India's main opposition party.

As well as banning the book, entitled "Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence", the BJP has also expelled its author, Jaswant Singh, 71, from the party, which he helped to found in 1980.

"This prohibition shows that freedom of opinion is not yet complete in India," Reporters Without Borders said. "Observations that do not conform to a party's ideological line cannot be regarded as defamatory or liable to censorship," Reporters Without Borders said.

"The federal government must insist that the provinces allow people to express their views on historic national issues, regardless of how sensitive they may be," the press freedom organisation added.

Singh has repeatedly expressed views that do not follow the BJP's ideological line, above all criticising its "demonization" of Jinnah. The other bone of contention is his criticism of Patel, who was India's first interior minister.

"We banned the book because it contains defamatory references to Vallabhbhai Patel," Jaynarayan Vyas, a member of the Gujarat government, told Agence France-Presse. "He is considered the architect of the modern India; no one can show him in bad light." Singh responded that Patel is only mentioned seven or eight times.

As the book was a long time in preparation, Singh is surprised by the suddenness of the ban and links it to current political developments. In an interview with the "Hindustan Times", he stressed that he never had any links with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, a controversial group allied to the BJP that wants the reunification of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

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