The controversies surrounding the annual book fair organised by the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI) have not died down, as the writers are continuing to criticise the association for alleged curtailment of freedom of expression.
However, controversies began to brew when BAPASI sent off a journalist for selling books that raised allegations against the State government and Ministers. He was later arrested by the police for allegedly threatening and abusing the organisers. This did not go well with the writers, who started to protest and even boycott the events.
Many writers who were invited as special guests boycotted the events; some even used the BAPASI’s stage to register their dissent. Renowned writer and Lok Sabha MP from Madurai S Venkatesan openly refused to talk on Keezhadi, the topic that was assigned to him.
“If anti-government books cannot be sold in a book fair, then books on Ambedkar and Gandhi cannot be sold too. I can understand that BAPASI has restrictions, but it should not be against freedom of expression,” said Venkatesan.
Similarly, writer Salma, too, criticised BAPASI. “India is a democratic country and everyone has the right to speak and write against the government. Reports against government is appearing on a daily basis in media. What will government do against the reports,” Salma asked while speaking to DT Next.
She added that an association like BAPASI should be independent. “There are many books against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Centre. Can the association ban all of them? The association should be free from all these government affiliations,” said Salma.
Reacting to the controversy, S K Murugan, secretary, BAPASI, said, “Venkatesan was called as a special guest by BAPASI but he misused the stage we provided. We are here to promote reading, not to promote politics. BAPASI stage was misused.” He added that the association was dependent on the government and thus cannot risk the livelihood of 450 BAPASI employees by antagonising the government.