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Kolkata book-fair: A misguided issue

New Delhi, Fri, 01 Feb 2008 Vikash Ranjan

Have you ever heard war against books? No… its time for you to have a look on the affairs of Kolkata Book Fair. Again you will be disappointed if wanna listen about book fighting. Because it is not so. But the good news for book lovers, the rumours, for the battle against books or book-lovers, is far from reality.

People of diverse mind set-up have interpreted the High Court’s order differently. A glass of water filled half for some looks half-empty, while for others it is half-filled. It depends on the people who think differently.

But the sad news is the wrong interpretation of the verdict even by the first leader of the state, the Chief Minister, unduly awarding the Kolkata book festival into a deep sack.

The critics of the high court judgment that stopped the book fair at the Park Circus Maidan for this year have got everything wrong.

The Calcutta High Court on January 28 had ruled that the book fair would not be held at the Park Circus Maidan as it might vitiate the environment.

The high court gave the judgement in view of the commercial use of a public space. The fact is book fair in Kolkata has been celebrating as the major commercial festival and over the years had been polluting the maidan, where it’s being arranged every year. The sole essence of the verdict is high court cannot allow the commercialisation of public space, which contaminates the environment.

But the Publishers and Booksellers Guild took the decision to hold off the fair if it does not get Maidan for the organisation of the book festival.

The West Bengal Chief Minister Bhattacharjee disliked the high court verdict and said, “My reasons or logic fails to explain as to how books can pollute society. No civilised society can accept this and together, we must find a way out of this situation.”

Guilds rival organisation the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Bengal, who has invested a lot of money for the holding of book fair, is right at its place when it demands the Chief Minister to intervene and provide other place so that the festival could be held at least this year and they be saved from huge economic losses.

Why there is fighting on a maidan? Why not the government arrange for the other place? At least one should not link the issue with the hurting of its ego. If government would not follow the rules, who is lawmaker of the states, then how the common mass be expected to go after that.

Who is to blame for generating the controversy? Absolutely neither the Calcutta High Court nor the citizens and environmentalists, who took shelter to the court to exclude the Park Circus Maidan from organising the book-fair. The one, who is responsible for this debacle is none other than the Guild and the state government, who did not make available the safe space to the organisers of the event and thus disregarded popular sentiments and the damage to environment.

Nonetheless all this hiccups and in the absence of book-fair this year, the verse of Arnold Lobel at this stage truly expresses the heart of book-worms:

Books to the Ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

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