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Award-winning novel torched, Nepali author threatened

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - According to Freedom Forum's information, a number of people from the Bhujel community set fire to the novel Seto Dharti, which was awarded this year's Madan Puraskar, one of Nepal's prestigious literary honors, in Pokhara, a western city, on 19 October 2012.

Talking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, novelist Amar Neupane said, "The members of the Bhujel Service Committee threatened me repeatedly with physical action and falsely accused me of 'humiliating their community' in my book Seto Dharti. I wrote the book after extensive research and depicted reality. But they misinterpreted it."

The members of the Committee asked the novelist to publicly ask for pardon for allegedly humiliating their community in the book and also told the bookshops in Pokhara to remove the novel from their shelves.

The novel, which was written after thorough study and research, was awarded the Madan Puraskar after a proper evaluation by senior literary figures.

It seems that the depiction of a particular time, people and their profession has allegedly been the source of humiliation for the Bhujel people which is quite objectionable, reports Freedom Forum.

Most of the readers have said that the book is not humiliating but the Bhujel people misinterpreted the content. It is actually written in their favour, the writer added.

Moreover, the threat to the novelist is a sheer violation of freedom of expression. This is a new phenomenon in Nepal's recent history, with a book being set on fire due to people's discontent with the content. The way in which this objection was expressed is abhorrent, Freedom Forum said.

Such incidents discourage writers and may lead to self-censorship. Self-censorship jeopardises freedom of expression, a fundamental right needed for the proper functioning of a democratic society.

Freedom Forum therefore strongly condemns the incident and urges the concerned authority to seek those involved in issuing the threats and take action.