The following statement has been issued by a number of leading intellectuals and writers of the country in protest against the arrest of Shri Sita Ram Goel by the Delhi police on December 19 for printing the Hindi translation of a scholarly study - Understanding Islam Through Hadis by Ram Swarup - which was published abroad in 1982 and which has since been through two reprints in India. The Hindi translation was seized by the police from the premises of the binder even before it was published. Your cooperation is requested in making it known to our countrymen at large.
The arrest of Shri Sita Ram Goel, the well-known writer and publisher on 19 December for publishing a Hindi translation of a scholarly study on Islam, Understanding Islam Through Hadis by Shri Ram Swarup, is a deplorable event which raises grave questions of intellectual freedom in our country. The legal aspects of the action by the Delhi police will be gone into by the appropriate court, but the moral and political issues involved need urgent public consideration.
The book in question - Understating Islam Through Hadis by Shri Ram Swarup - was first published abroad five years ago and has since been a subject of scholarly discussion. The author of the book is well-known for his deep philosophical, and reflective thought on religion, informed by a concern for man's religious quest. This study on Islam through the Hadis is based on sources held in the highest esteem by Muslim scholarship, viz., the Hadis collection by Muslim (the second most authoritative compilation according to Muslim tradition), Sirat Rasul Allah by Ibn Ishaq (the first authoritative biography of the Prophet), Tarikhi-i-Tabri, by at-Tabri, and several other works listed in the bibliography appended to the book. The resulting picture of Islam may or may not meet with the approval of all those interested in the subject, but the extent of approval a work enjoys has never been the criterion for determining its scholarly merits, not at least in a free society.
That publication of a Hindi translation
of Shri Ram Swarup's book should attract the repressive attention of the
Delhi police bodes ill for intellectual freedom in our country. We have
rather special problems of intercommunity relations and there is a laudable
concern on the part of those in authority to establish a climate of mutual
tolerance between communities. It is, in our view, however, very doubtful
if such a climate can be built on the foundation of ignorance and suppression
of critical thought. Shri Ram Swarup's study on Islam through the Hadis
seeks to inform his readers on aspects of Islam about which we ought to
be far better enlightened than we have been hitherto, and therefore it
ought to receive a far greater attention from the media than it has done
so far. The book needs to be translated into all the Indian languages
and widely disseminated throughout the country. The better we understand
the major religious and cultural traditions of India the better we might
be able to pursue the goal of national integration.
Those in authority should take a national and a long term perspective
on the nation-building process rather than opt for repression of thought
and suppression of information because some people find information disagreeable
and thought uncomfortable. Without free discussion on religious doctrines
or traditions we will never achieve national integration.