It’s a scandalous implication anywhere, but especially in India where Gandhi is revered as a national hero, saint, and father of India’s independence – and where homosexuality still carries a stigma. Homosexuality was decriminalized recently in India, in 2009, but it remains a highly sensitive issue among the country’s socially conservative masses.
And the suggestion Gandhi had a homosexual relationship has sparked outrage in India.
“The depiction about Mahatma Gandhi made by Joseph Lelyveld deserves to be despised,” Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat State, wrote on his blog. “This shall not be tolerated under any circumstance.”
“Gandhiji was a respected leader and is known as the father of nation. He led the freedom movement of India. The government will initiate steps to ensure that the book is not published in the state,” Maharashtra Industries Minister Narayan Rane told the Legislative Council today.
“It has become a fashion to tarnish the image of great Indian leaders for self publicity and sale of books,” said Sanjay Dutt, spokesman for the ruling Congress Party in Maharashtra, according to the Associated Press. “The government should invoke a law to severely punish anyone who tarnishes the image of the father of the nation.”
But Mr. Lelyveld insists the only tarnishing happening is by headline-seeking reviewers unfairly portraying his book.