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'Book reveals author's mind, not Gandhi's'

Last updated on: March 29, 2011 18:53 IST

'Book reveals author's mind, not Gandhi's'

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Controversy has refused to die down over claims about Mahatma Gandhi's sexual preferences in a new book with Gandhi's kin and historians saying it was an attempt to 'sensationalise' the life of the icon of non-violence and showed the 'negative' mindset of the author.

The book in question "Great Soul; Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld is available in the United States since Monday.

The reviews of the book hit the newspapers in England and US claiming that the book says Gandhi was a bisexual and had a German-Jewish bodybuilder lover in Hermann Kallenbach.

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Image: Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi
Photographs: Getty Images
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'Western writers have a morbid fascination for Gandhi's sexuality'

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Mahatma's grandson Tushar Gandhi said in Twitter, "Bapu was celibate". "These western writers have a morbid fascination for Gandhi's sexuality," Tushar said adding, "It only helps them sell their books. It is always open season with Gandhi".

Noted historian and former Jamia Vice Chancellor Mushirul Hassan said, "He (the author) is just trying to sensationalise the life of Gandhi. It is a very unkind act and should be avoided by all concerned. Gandhi was so open and that led him to misinterpretation and this is an example of that," he told PTI.


Image: Mahatma Gandhi at the beginning of a fast.
Photographs: Keystone/Getty Images
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'It is totally wrong'

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According to Gandhi's granddaughter Tara Gandhi Bhattacharya, "It (the indications) shows his (the author's) mind rather than Gandhi's. It shows the violence and the negative mindset of the writer".

"Though I have not read the book I would like to say that it is in very bad taste. My reaction as a biological person would have been harsher. But as a citizen of the world I would say that it is anti any movement of love. It is totally wrong," she said.


Image: Mahatma Gandhi arrives at Simla to discuss the international situation with local Congress authorities and the Viceroy
Photographs: Fox Photos/Getty Images
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'No evidence behind the claims'

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Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar, one of the first to write on Gandhi's sexuality in 'Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality' and later in 'Mira and Mahatma', said he has gone through an ocean of archives on Gandhi and he never discovered anything that the reviewers claim the book consists of.

Jad Adams, whose 2010 book 'Gandhi- Naked Ambitions', devoted substantial bits to the Mahatma's sexual life, also rubbished the homosexual thesis. "If Gandhi committed acts of homosexuality, there would be ample evidence, either justifying them or expressing shame for them".


Image: Mahatma Gandhi speaking at a rally.
Photographs: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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'The word 'bisexual' nowhere appears in the book'

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The book, published in the US by Knopf, part of Random House Inc, is not yet available in India. It quotes certain letters written by him to Kallenbach in which he says, "How completely you have taken possession of my body...This is slavery with a vengeance".

Gandhi lived with Kallenbach in Johannesburg for about two years from 1907 before leaving South Africa to return to India in 1914.

According to reports, Lelyveld himself has denied the allegations saying, "I do not allege that Gandhi is a racist or bisexual in 'Great Soul'. The word 'bisexual' nowhere appears in the book." He also denied having called Gandhi a racist.


Image: Mahatma Gandhi
Photographs: Getty Images
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