London: Pulitzer prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld has criticised the move of Gujarat government to ban his controversial book on Mahatma Gandhi and described the move as “shameful”.

"In a country (India) that calls itself a democracy, it is shameful to ban a book that no one has read, including the people who are doing the banning," Lelyveld said.

The author of the book titled 'Great Soul; Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India' has triggered a controversy 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.

"They should at least make an effort to see the pages that they think offend them before they take such an extreme step. I find it very discouraging to think that India would so
limit discussion," he said.

Defending his work, Lelyveld said: "It is a responsible book, it is a sensitive book, it is a book that is admiring of Gandhi and his struggle for social justice in India and it's been turned into as if it is some kind of sensationalist pot boiler. It is not."

Close on the heels of Gujarat government, the Maharashtra Government is also mulling over to ban the book, which reportedly talks about the sexual preferences of Mahatma Gandhi.

He dismissed reports that his work includes offensive languages against Mahatma, saying the book does not talk about the sexual preferences of the Indian leader.

"It does not say Gandhi was bisexual. It does not say that he was homosexual," Lelyveld said and added: “The word bisexual never appears in the book and the word racist only appears once in a very limited context; relating to a single phrase and not to Gandhi's whole set attitudes or history in South Africa.”

(Agencies)